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Pop artists borrowed from popular culture, challenging notions of originality and what it means to be an artist.

Still Life #30

Tom Wesselmann
(American, 1931–2004)

1963. Oil, enamel and synthetic polymer paint on composition board with collage of printed advertisements, plastic flowers, refrigerator door, plastic replicas of 7-up bottles, glazed and framed color reproduction, and stamped metal, 48 1/2 x 66 x 4" (122 x 167.5 x 10 cm)

Still Life #30 is a large still-life composed of a table laden with images of fresh and packaged food, balanced by a pink refrigerator door, replica 7-Up bottles, and a window with a view to the city. Wesselmann remarked, “This kind of relationship helps establish a momentum throughout the picture… At first glance my pictures seem well behaved, as if—that is a still life, O.K. But these things have such crazy give-and-take that I feel they get really very wild.”1

This work is one in a series of still-lifes featuring images cut out from magazines, then collaged directly onto the surface of his paintings. He composed with an eye towards the combination of objects, colors and textures. A painter, sculptor, and printmaker, Wesselmann never embraced the label of Pop artist. He said that he chose to depict everyday objects for their aesthetic qualities, not to make any cultural critiques.

Interview with G. Swenson, ARTnews, 1964, p. 44

One who applies paint to canvas, wood, paper, or another support to produce a picture.

A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).

A representation of inanimate objects, as a painting of a bowl of fruit.

A copy or reproduction.

A work of art on paper that usually exists in multiple copies. It is created not by drawing directly on paper, but through a transfer process. The artist begins by creating a composition on another surface, such as metal or wood, and the transfer occurs when that surface is inked and a sheet of paper, placed in contact with it, is run through a printing press. Four common printmaking techniques are woodcut, etching, lithography, and screenprint.

A movement comprising initially British, then American artists in the 1950s and 1960s. Pop artists borrowed imagery from popular culture—from sources including television, comic books, and print advertising—often to challenge conventional values propagated by the mass media, from notions of femininity and domesticity to consumerism and patriotism. Their often subversive and irreverent strategies of appropriation extended to their materials and methods of production, which were drawn from the commercial world.

The arrangement of the individual elements within a work of art so as to form a unified whole; also used to refer to a work of art, music, or literature, or its structure or organization.

Derived from the French verb coller, meaning “to glue,” collage refers to both the technique and the resulting work of art in which fragments of paper and other materials are arranged and glued or otherwise affixed to a supporting surface.

Relating to or characterized by a concern with beauty or good taste (adjective); a particular taste or approach to the visual qualities of an object (noun).

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Still Life #30

Tom Wesselmann (American, 1931–2004)