Best of 2013: John Wesley "Objects and Paintings" (NSFW)
Originally published on July 10th, 2013: Even though this show closed last week at David Kordansky in Los Angeles, John Wesley's work, as always, looked fantastic. "Objects and Paintings includes paintings and sculptures from several periods in Wesley’s career; all of them point to the “eccentric precision,” as Dan Flavin described it in the show's catlogue, that has made him one of the indispensible American artists of the post-war period.
Over the course of his half-century career, Wesley has created an amalgamation of minimalist, surrealist, and pop vocabularies that taps into the cultural unconscious. His formal universe, which is predicated on patterning, seriality, and a particularly deliberate use of line and color, brings together references and images of all kinds."
More from the press release....
As such, the rarely seen sculptures on view in the exhibition shed light on the paintings for which Wesley is best known. Essentially paintings in their own right, the objects provided the artist with the opportunity to apply his imagery to readymade objects. In Bird Lovers (1973), two of Wesleyʼs iconic pink females bow toward one another in perfect compositional symmetry while a pink bird hovers atop the blue expanse of a motorcycle helmet. The nude figures suggest a complex attitude towards eroticism: sulky, submissive, and titillating but also wild and free, tied to the momentʼs easy rider counterculture.
In this regard, the objects become a means of further exploring the psychosexual motifs of Wesleyʼs work—extra hardware in his cultural toolbox. Other sculptures include two riffs on the bikini, a table, a nutcracker, and a ‘folding boat’ fashioned of unstructured canvas. The latter functions both as a pop-inflected soft form reminiscent of Oldenburg as well as a kind of critique of the unassailable status of the objective, neutral support in painting. Gestures like these show Wesley circumventing the grand narratives of modernist art historical development in order to create what Dave Hickey has described as a contemporary American form of allegory, “the restoration of traditional genre in cartoon drag.”
The paintings on view made during the late 1990s and early 2000s, demonstrate the fluidity with which Wesley is able to address a variety of subjects and moods. Woman on Top, from 1996, is an erotic picture whose strength of line and composition make it feel like a landscape of flesh; despite its flatness and monochromatic background, it boasts a complex series of negative spaces and a surprisingly layered sense of perspective.
All images via CAD
Images courtesy of David Kordansky, Los Angeles. Photos by Fredrik Nilsen