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Cincinnati Art Museum presents 'Beyond Pop Art: A Tom Wesselmann Retrospective'
Tom Wesselmann (American, b.1931, d.2004), Screen Star, 1999-2003. Oil on cut-out aluminum 109 x 139 x 43 in. Lent by Claire Wesselmann. Estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY, Photo: Jeffrey Sturges.

CINCINNATI, OH.- The Cincinnati Art Museum hosts the exhibition Beyond Pop Art: A Tom Wesselmann Retrospective, Oct. 31, 2014 – Jan. 18, 2015. An American painter and Cincinnati native, Tom Wesselmann (1931-2004) is widely regarded as one of the leading figures of American Pop Art.

Known for creating collages and assemblages of everyday objects and advertising, the Wesselmann retrospective catalogues more than four decades of the artist’s work. His larger-than-life Still Life #60 already is a familiar sighting in downtown Cincinnati as the artwork has been captured as a mural – in all of its oversized glory – on the corner of 8th and Main Streets by ArtWorks, the award-winning nonprofit organization that enables youth apprentices and artists to turn bare walls into public masterpieces. The 25-foot-long mural is a great representation of the brightly colored, sculptural painting that features six everyday objects, including a hand-painted, standing canvas cutout of a lipstick, measuring 14 feet, 9 inches.

“The Cincinnati Art Museum is excited to showcase the works of Tom Wesselmann in his hometown,” said Cameron Kitchin, director of the Cincinnati Art Museum. “Beyond Pop Art highlights Wesselmann’s status as a leader in the Pop Art movement, follows the development of his work and explores his reluctance to being associated with the genre. This exhibition does a great job of furthering the knowledge and appreciation of this talented Cincinnatian.”

Matt Distel, Cincinnati Art Museum’s adjunct curator of contemporary art, said that despite Wesselmann’s legacy as one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century, he is still under-recognized and slightly misunderstood. “The success and power of his early Great American Nude series contributed to his distinction, yet his career never stood still as he was constantly innovating in his studio until his death in 2004,” Distel noted.

Featuring approximately 75 works organized chronologically, Beyond Pop Art follows the development of Wesselmann’s work, series by series, from his earliest abstract collages to his most well-known pieces. Notable works on display include everything from his Great American Nude series and still lifes of his Pop period, to the cut-steel drawings and Sunset Nudes series created in his final years.

Cincinnati Art Museum visitors will have the opportunity to explore Wesselmann’s creative process through preliminary drawings, maquettes and archival documents, from billboards to photographs and letters. Distel added, “This show is particularly poignant in that Tom is from Cincinnati and his visits home from New York helped to shape some of his most compelling works as he began incorporating imagery from the billboards he passed in his travels.”

The Cincinnati Art Museum is the final tour stop in the first North American retrospective for this important artist and, according to Distel, is long overdue.

Beyond Pop Art also explores Wesselmann’s reluctance to be affiliated with the Pop Art movement. In his biography, written under the pen name Slim Stealingworth, he wrote that he, “… dislikes the term ‘Pop Art’ primarily because it causes many art historians, curators and critics to focus excessively on subject matter and assumed sociological commentary. Wesselmann’s motivation, what drives his art, is no different than any other fine artist in history – he wants to give form to his own personal discoveries of what is beautiful and exciting.”

In addition to a focus on Wesselmann’s visual arts, Beyond Pop Art explores his connection to country music. By the end of his life, he had written more than 400 songs, a number of which were recorded. One of his compositions, “I Love Doing Texas with You,” sung by Kevin Trainor, was included on the soundtrack for the Academy Award-winning film Brokeback Mountain.

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