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Galerie de Bellefeuille hosts premiere; Tom Wesselmann prints arrive in Canada
Tom Wesselmann, Claire Sitting with Robe Half Off (Vivienne). Photo: Courtesy Galerie de Bellefeuille.

MONTREAL.- Galerie de Bellefeuille recently received major prints by Tom Wesselmann, (1931-2004), one of the leading American Pop artists of the 60s, along with Andy Warhol, Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenberg. The 18 prints have never been exhibited together in Canada. Prior to this, no one had organized a print show of this magnitude.

Owners of the gallery, Helen and Jacques Bellefeuille, curated the show, carefully selecting each work and assembling important pieces that reflect the range of the artist’s prodigious talent. They worked closely with the Tom Wesselmann Estate and the David Janis Gallery in New York. The David Janis Gallery is directed by the grandson of Sidney Janis, whose gallery was pivotal in driving the careers of contemporary artists of the mid 20th century, and who represented Tom Wesselmann.

Wesselmann took traditional art historical painting genres, such as the nude, landscapes and still life, and made them contemporary. Building on these themes, and inspired by popular culture, he reflected the zeitgeist of the 60s and 70s, often using Mad Men-style advertising ephemera. His etchings Smoking Cigarette # 1 and # 2,1991 recall an era when cigarettes were not only part of the day and night, but were perceived as sexy. His pictorially one-dimensional compositions often showed repeated leitmotifs: He made the everyday elegant. Household objects such as a 7Up bottle, a vase, or a bowl, appear frequently in his prints, re-interpreted in Crayola shades. (Still Life with Lilies, Petunias and Fruit 1988, Still Life with Blowing Curtain (Red), 1988).

The de Bellefeuille exhibition includes the artist’s most famous works – American Nudes. Their sense of scale thrusts the female body front and center. Bikini-marked tan lines attract the eye. Some are naked; others are partially clothed. (Claire Sitting with Robe Half Off (Vivienne) 1993). Many have ‘look-at-me’ red lips. Wesselmann’s Elizabeth Taylor silkscreen Still Life with Liz 1993 was selected for the show. Her iconic image gazes beautifully in the background of a patterned still life composition.
The Galerie de Bellefeuille exhibit parallels the Tom Wesselmann Retrospective at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art. (May 18 – October 7, 2012)

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