Art o’ the Day: Tom Wesselmann, “Sunset Nude with Matisse Odalisque”, 2003

  February 11th, 2011

       Tom Wesselmann, Sunset Nude with Matisse Odalisque, 2003, oil on canvas
     I just posted a Wesselmann not too long ago, but I can’t get enough of his work (a recent discovery for me) so I’m havin’ at him again. Where to begin? I can’t get enough of this riot of color. Those overlapping planes — starting at the foreground we have: vermillion with white-bolted tablecloth, oranges & lime & maroon chair, sunny tulips against greenery, the eyeless orange nude white-paint-rollered by the terrific sun & reclining on her moodyblue chaise, the sighted, voluptuous & lovely odalisque (or painting of same) & her highbacked orangleblue stripey chair, her lavender & brickred printed background, and then that window with pale-teal lawn and big angry sore of a red sun. What a feast, what a bounty for the eyes. & I haven’t even touched on the vectors — how the eye goes from bottom right to top left and back again, exploring the visual & centuries-separated echo of the two reclining women — and the other intersecting diagonal from bottom left to top right, as the tablecloth finds its partner in the setting sun, as the yellow tulips call out to their partners on the right, as the white of the chairback is echoed in the orange mega-tanned nude’s bodystripe, the vase’s chevron and the sun’s beam. Everything belongs here, what feels at first like rhapsody is tightly controlled rhythm, placement and harmony that — and this is important — remains just as rhapsodic even while & after its visual patterns are being / have been charted. And finally, what do we make of the eyes and eyeless? Our modern papaya-fleshed blinded and her cassis-eyed ancestor? Is it better to look back at your objectifier or not? And what else about the two women, their flesh, their fullness, their inhabiting of their bodies? Odalisque is full woman, relaxed and owning her curves, sensuous, beguiling, hair unshaved — but tanning-bed orange feels different, she is undifferentiated energy beam, data-field, color congealing like something seen through tears, white stripe launching down her haunch and calf, off the canvas, straight to the fleshless infinity of the 21st century ——->
More about this & other Wesselmann paintings at

All writing except where noted © copyright C. Way / 2011

[posted by C Way at 11:03 PM]


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