Wesselmann's Model & Muse Shares Memories with the Crowd at DAM Beyond Pop Art Preview

The Denver Art Museum is brimming with new exhibitions this summer. On July 10 we invited the media to see a sneak peek of Beyond Pop Art: A Tom Wesselmann Retrospective, opening July 13. Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM, Claire Wesselmann, the late artist’s model and muse, and Tom Wesselmann’s studio manager, Jeffrey Sturges, led the tour through the exhibition.

Sturges noted that it was exciting to see Wesselmann’s early nudes together again. This is the first time people will be seeing all four together since they were made in the studio.

Claire Wesselmann told a story about her husband writing to companies to get their billboards and posters after they took them down so he could incorporate images of products into his artwork. “He wrote to these people and they were so thrilled they sent us boxes of this stuff,” she said. Some of the letters he received in reply are on display in the exhibition.

She also explained Tom’s love of drawing.

“He loved the lines that defined things. Drawing was the starting point of the things he's trying to get to in his art.”

She told a brief story about a museum rejecting one of Tom’s cut-steel drawings, saying they didn’t know what they were. “Hello. Use your eyes. It’s a drawing,” she said.

The exhibition, which is organized chronologically, ends with the Sunset Nudes, which brings Wesselmann’s work full circle revisiting his Great American Nudes. Heinrich said Wesselmann was a “wonderful example” of the notion that artists often work in circles and revisit themes from the beginning of their careers.

Reporters also visited At the Mirror: Reflections of Japan in 20th Century Prints. Ronald Otsuka, Joseph de Heer Curator of Asian Art at the DAM, talked about how the gallery had been transformed to create an environment for close looking. Most of the 70 woodblock prints originally were displayed in homes, and the museum wants to ensure that visitors get to experience them in an intimate environment so the space is filled with corridors of parallel walls. All of the artworks in this exhibition are part of the DAM collection. They were acquired during Otsuka's tenure at the DAM, which began in 1973.

Other new exhibitions now on view that curators shared with the media were:

Daniel Sprick’s Fictions: Recent Works

First Glance/Second Look: Quilts from the Denver Art Museum Collection

Photography & Vision: The Influence of Joyce and Ted Strauss

Christoph Heinrich, Jeffrey Sturges, and Claire Wesselmann take media through Beyond Pop Art.

Claire Wesselmann in front of Monica Sitting with Mondrian (Variation #4), 1988.

Photos Tom Wesselmann took for his Smokers series.

The media gets a sense of the large scale of Tom Wesselman's Still Life #60, which is more than 25 feet long.

Still Life with Liz is one of Tom Wesselmann's cut-steel drawings on view in Beyond Pop Art.

At the Mirror showcases Japanese woodblock prints.

Media at At the Mirror.

Curator Timothy Standring discussing Daniel Sprick's Fictions: Recent Works before media arrive for tour.

Carleen Brice is senior content associate in the marketing department at the Denver Art Museum. Carleen has been at the DAM since 2013. Her new happy place is the In Bloom exit shop.