Life of Pop: Which one of these is not like the others?
We’re continuing to celebrate the exhibition Sweet Dreams, Baby! Life of Pop, London to Warhol with posts that focus on some of the lesser-known Pop art works in the Albright-Knox’s Collection. This week, we take a closer look at John Wesley (American, born 1928) and his painting George Washington and Three Indians, 1963.
Born in Los Angeles, John Wesley began painting around the age of twenty-two and his first major solo exhibition featured a series of works inspired by the flat look and feel of government seals and postage stamps. While Wesley’s later work retained this stylistic approach, he also began incorporating portraits of famous figures and cartoon characters; this more evolved style can be seen in George Washington and Three Indians. The work—which was acquired from Wesley’s 1963 solo exhibition at Robert Elkon Gallery in New York—and the series from which it hails were described by the artist Donald Judd in a April 1963 Arts Magazine review to be “like or as copies of the pictures and patterns of blue and white china. Most of the forms are nineteenth-century. The forms selected, the shapes to which they are unobtrusively altered, the order used, and the small details are humorous and goofy.”
Today Wesley continues to work in a more highly stylized, comic-strip style that merges iconic cartoon figures with everyday people and figurative elements borrowed from traditional Japanese painting, exploring our collective fears, joys, and worldly desires.
Image © John Wesley