I’d never painted anything before. I was quite content to take other people’s work since I didn’t care anyway about the subject matter. I approached subject matter as a scoundrel. I had nothing to say about it whatsoever. I only wanted to make these exciting paintings.
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One of the first Pop artists, along with Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenburg, Wesselmann started experiments in the 1950s with small, abstract collages. Then, in 1960, he adopted advertising images to make bold amusing still lifes and interiors, collages and assemblages using commonplace household items, and often, a highly stylised female nude…
Still Life #30. April 1963. Oil, enamel and synthetic polymer paint on composition board with collage of printed advertisements, plastic flowers, refrigerator door, plastic replicas of 7-Up bottles, glazed and framed color reproduction, and stamped metal.
Before you go on, I’m going to get back to where we left off. I was making a point I want to complete. I was aware, growing up and in Cooper Union, of something about being a boy and being immature and lacking real strong identity, that sort of thing. Through the process at Cooper Union, a more demanding intellectual process and all the reading, I began to feel the experience of beginning to mature, feeling more like a man. And when I became a painter and was just beginning these collages, I felt that I’d done something of my own. I began to feel a sense of identity and greater confidence in myself. And in my relationship with Claire. I felt instead of loving her like a boy, I was loving her like a man and she was a woman, a complex and beautiful woman. It was at that point I began to grow. It was as though I’d been a boy until I graduated from Cooper Union and suddenly I entered this transition into the adult phase. It was rather exciting and at the same time it was all too difficult for me to handle. That’s when I began analysis, after I graduated.
Demonstrating the potent power of Wesselmann’s imagery, the work was censored from a 1963 exhibition at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art reportedly because the image of the President and a nude appeared together, perhaps with the Marilyn-like lips, a loaded reference to Kennedy, and Monroe, who was recently deceased. Wesselmann wrote a letter to the editor of Art News in the summer of 1963 against the museum’s decision to censor the work…