“The promise of happiness attached to taut tits and their Coca-Cola casual marketing was flattened into an austere vision, radical only in its Hardwickian longing for the ‘inevitable.’ Much like the indefinitely postponed ‘orgasm’ that has elsewhere stalled in Wesselmann’s painterly time, the ‘inevitable’ was the end to or suspension of fantasy. With increased visibility and access came desensitization, banality, and boredom—the seductive, Warholian center vortex of the 1960s.”—Sabrina Tarasoff
Published on the occasion of the exhibition Tom Wesselmann: La Promesse du Bonheur, curated by Chris Sharp with the scientific coordination of Cristiano Raimondi, held at Villa Paloma in Monaco June 29, 2018, through January 6, 2019, this catalogue is a critical overview of a key American Pop artist and an important opportunity to analyze specific aspects of his work: Victorian and post-Victorian sexuality, female agency, postwar economic abundance, beauty, the erotics of anticipation, the politics of the gaze, and strategies of indeterminacy. Every aspect of the book’s design, including its more than 170 color illustrations, is conceived to reflect on the artist’s haptic, indexical painterly approach and oversize scale system.
Through Steven Marcus’s concept of “pornotopia” and the perspective of economy and abundance in postwar American society, the critical essay by Chris Sharp examines Wesselmann’s depictions of the sexual, developed formally in the works by means of hyperbole, hierarchies of elements, elision, and omission. The second critical essay by Sabrina Tarasoff leverages Julian Wasser’s iconic 1963 photograph Duchamp Playing Chess with a Nude, the 1969 “breast action” during one of Theodor W. Adorno’s classes, and more to deliberate the intentional in-betweenness in Wesselmann’s work, “interest” as a category preceding definition, semantic versus formal dimensions, and midcentury sensibilities regarding masculinity and female empowerment.