Pop Legend Tom Wesselmann´s Steel Drawings at Galerie Gmurzynska, St Moritz
“A Line to Greatness”, a curated showcase of Tom Wesselmann’s signature steel drawings from the 1980s and 90s, opened last weekend at Galerie Gmurzynska´s St Moritz branch. Wesselmann first experimented with transposing his vivid drawing practice onto metal around 1983. Having time and again been at the forefront in reconfiguring the latest technologies to serve his own artistic goals, such as the vacuum-formed plastic paintings “American Nudes” from the 1960s, Wesselmann’s steel drawings were deemed by the artist to represent the decisive next chapter in his oeuvre.
Wesselmann’s excitement over exploring the literally cutting-edge technique of laser cutting comes across in the first critical monograph on his oeuvre, authored by no other than the artist himself under his pseudonym Slim Stealingworth:
“Wesselmann’s original idea, that began the cut-out works, was to preserve the process and immediacy of his drawings from life, complete with the false lines and errors, and realize them in steel. It was as though the lines had just been miraculously drawn in steel.” Slim Stealingworth, Tom Wesselmann, 1980
Wesselmann was seized by the idea of doing a drawing in steel, to free the drawn line fom the paper, as if drawn directly on the wall. The incorporation of negative space that had begun in the Drop-Out series was continued into a new medium. While the first works were black and white he soon worked in color as well. Galerie Gmurzynska has assembled a comprehensive overview of these exciting works, sowcasing both, the early experiments in aluminum, which were cut by hand, as well as the subsequent works in steel for which he developed the first artistic use of laser-cut metal.
Although many have tried, few artists have successfully mastered a new medium in their later years. Repetitions ad nauseam of the forms that made a career are the norm, and new departures the exception. Those who did manage—Pablo Picasso with ceramics, say, or Henri Matisse with cut-outs—have earned a special place in art history. “A Line to Greatness,” a new exhibition at Galerie Gmurzynska in St Moritz, shows that pop artist Tom Wesselmann, he of Great American Nudes fame, deserves a place among these giants. Pop Legend Tom Wesselmann Like You’ve Never Seen Him Before on artnet
“It’s a drawing because I drew the thing”
Tom Wesselmann, when asked by the Whitney Museum to specify
how to properly categorize his metal works
The exhibition also features Wesselmann’s later homage to Henri Matisse, celebrated by Wesselmann through his “Blue Nude” series of cut aluminum drawings from the 1990s.