Denver Art Museum to Host Tom Wesselmann Retrospective

Beyond Pop Art: A Tom Wesselmann Retrospective explores the American artist’s 40-year career

The Denver Art Museum (DAM) will host the exhibition Beyond Pop Art: A Tom Wesselmann Retrospective, July 13–September 21, 2014. American painter Tom Wesselmann (1931–2004) is widely regarded as one of the leading figures of American Pop Art, with a career spanning more than four decades. Organized chronologically, the exhibition follows the development of Wesselmann’s work, series by series, from the earliest abstract collages to his well-known series, The Great American Nude, and still lifes of his Pop period, to the cut-steel drawings and Sunset Nudes of his late work.

Tom Wesselmann (American, b.1931, d.2004), Smoker, 1 (Mouth, 12), 1967. Oil on canvas, in two parts; Overall 9' 7/8" x 7' 1" (276.6 x 216 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Susan Morse Hilles Fund, 1968. © Estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY, Photo Credit: Jeffrey Sturges.

Beyond Pop Art continues the DAM’s tradition of bringing exhibitions to Denver, like Becoming Van Gogh, that provide an inside look into an artist’s process,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the Denver Art Museum. “The exhibition allows visitors to follow Wesselmann’s personal and creative journey through the Pop Art movement and beyond.”

The exhibition features approximately 100 works, including the larger-than-life Still Life #60, which is more than 25 feet long, and Screen Star, which weighs more than 2,000 pounds. Visitors will have the opportunity to explore Wesselmann’s process through preliminary drawings, maquettes and archival documents, from billboards to photographs and letters.

“Tom Wesselmann continued to reinvent himself long after the Pop Art movement peaked,” said William Morrow, Polly and Mark Addison Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the DAM. “Wesselmann was interested in finding his own voice by revisiting the traditions of masters like Matisse and Cezanne and redefining the traditional genres of the nude, still life and landscape.”

Tom Wesselmann (American, b. 1931, d. 2004), Still Life #60, 1973. Oil on canvas; 122-1/4 x 333 x 86-1/2 in. Lent by Claire Wesselmann. © Estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY, Photo Credit: Jeffrey Sturges.

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, Wesselmann 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 over 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.

Beyond Pop Art: A Tom Wesselmann Retrospective will be on view in the DAM’s Anschutz Gallery on level two of the Frederic C. Hamilton Building and will be included in general admission.

Exhibition Catalog

An exhibition catalog edited by Stéphane Aquin, curator of contemporary art at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, will be available in The Shop at the Denver Art Museum.

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 Credit: Jeffrey Sturges.

Exhibition Tour Schedule

  • Denver Art Museum, July 13–September 21, 2014
  • Cincinnati Art Museum, October 31, 2014–January 18, 2015

Exhibition Organizers and Sponsors

Beyond Pop Art: A Tom Wesselmann Retrospective is organized by the Cincinnati Art Museum. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. It is presented with the generous support of donors to the Annual Fund Leadership Campaign and the citizens who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). Promotional support is provided by 5280 Magazine, CBS4 and The Denver Post.

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