New York

Tom Wesselmann

Sidney Janis Gallery

Not surprisingly, what’s at issue in Tom Wesselmann’s recent show is a Pop art sensibility. Of course, Wesselmann, one of Pop’s really big boys, shocked audiences with explicitly sexy images, particularly in his “Great American Nude” series. However, while sex could still provoke audiences in the ’60s, it’s hardly scandalous in the ’80s. There’s a hint of Pop naughtiness—and feeling naughty is a response rarely provoked by today’s figurative fare—in Wesselmann’s treatment of the Dropped Bra. In true Pop fashion, the bra is executed in a variety of media, materials, colors and sizes. The presentation recalls Pop interests in serials and the tendency to mass-produce something-for-everyone knock-offs. Once one recognizes the crumbled objects for what they are, the usual response is a friendly, conspiratorial smile or easy giggle. After all, the fantastic narratives which the pieces invite are what’s fun.

A similar response is demanded by the Belt Still Life. Also executed in a number of versions, it consists of a woman’s shoe, a vase with roses, and a man’s belt. Here, associations also run in romantic directions, largely because of Wesselmann’s sensuous treatment of colors and surfaces. The same applies to his treatments of smoking. Wesselmann’s toning down of the explicit and literary qualities of Pop is in tune with current trends towards providing an actively evocative viewing experience.

Ronny Cohen