New York

John Wesley

Fredericks & Freiser

John Wesley has always been hard to pin down. Linda Norden, curator of a recent exhibition of his work at Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum, has described him as a “not-quite-pop, faux-primitive Californian” as well as the “Henri Rousseau of his generation.” In these pages in October 2000, Dave Hickey opined that his “penchant for erotic narrative . . . defines Wesley as more an eighteenth-century fabulist.” We can at least agree that the artist started to mine popular culture for imagery in the early ’60s and used it to sexier and more eccentric ends than his fellow painters Warhol, Rosenquist, and Lichtenstein. Recent works like Utamaro Nude, Bumstead Nude and Utamaro Washing, Bumstead Sleeping (both 2003) also make it clear he’s no naïf. With the simultaneous homage to the eighteenth-century Japanese master (whose art influenced late-nineteenth-century French painters and thereby modernism)

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