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Still Life #12

1962 Tom Wesselmann Born: Cincinnati, Ohio 1931 Died: New York, New York 2004 acrylic and collage of fabric, photogravure, metal, etc. on fiberboard 48 x 48 1/8 in. (122 x 122.1 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase © 1962, Tom Wesselmann 1986.23 Smithsonian American Art Museum
3rd Floor, North Wing


Gallery Label

In Still Life #12, Wesselmann attached commercial images of frosty beverages and freshly cooked food to a painted facsimile of a red-checked tablecloth. A window in the background turns out to be a photograph of an orchard, with two cutout areas colored to resemble photographs of a lemon and an apple. For these painted elements, the artist heated up the already intense colors of advertisements to create what he called an "aggressive" picture. Two bottles of Coca Cola, painted on stamped metal, push outward from the surface, complicating our sense of what is real and what is invented. Wesselmann's luscious images of food and drink point to another kind of desire. The apple and the breast-shaped lemon perch on the threshold of the Garden of Eden, while, below, a glistening, trussed ham and two strategically placed cans of "Bustelo" coffee stand in for one of the Great American Nudes that made Wesselmann the bad boy of American art. Wesselmann enjoyed the publicity that the pop artist label brought him, but he insisted that his collages expressed something more important than consumer culture. Still Life #12 recasts old traditions of the nude, the still life, and landscape painting in the hip language of modern American life.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006

Keywords

Still life - art tool - camera

Still life - art tool - camera

Still life - foodstuff - beverage

Still life - foodstuff - meat

Still life - fruit - apple

Still life - fruit - lemon

Still life - other - container

Still life - other - container

Still life - other - cookware

painting

fabric

metal

paint - acrylic

fiberboard