The Tom Wesselmann We Know

Getting to Know Tom Wesselmann

Just before the Paris show of Tom Wesselmann’s work a few months ago, The New York Times ran a piece about him titled, The Most Famous Pop Artist You Don’t Know. It’s true that Warhol and Lichtenstein are more recognizable than Wesselman to most people, but that’s beginning to change.

Tom Wesselmann has always been celebrated here at VFA, for his style, his shaped canvasses and his innovative steel-cut drawings. The rest of the art world is catching up and Wesselmann’s work is gaining greater appreciation than ever before.

My one intention is to always find new ways to make exciting paintings using the situation of the traditional nude.”

Though his career took off in the 1960s, after his first solo show in New York, the 1970s and ‘80s were hard on his career. His work was criticized for being too erotic and anti-feminist, but nudes were what Wesselmann liked to paint and, despite some lean years, he persisted.

“I don’t depict nudes from any sociological, cultural, or emotional intentions.” he wrote, “My one intention is to always find new ways to make exciting paintings using the situation of the traditional nude.”

Wesselmann, who was inspired by Matisse, was an inspiration to many of the figurative artists who came after him. Younger artists have been influenced by his bold use of color, and his use of the female form in a way that is very American and still seems very fresh and modern.

The Early Days in New York

The time in which Wesselmann began his career as an artist, in the late 1950s, was a time in New York when artist-run galleries gave artists the opportunity to break out of the limits of the established art world and make their own rules. These galleries allowed artists, like Wesselmann, to experiment with their works, share ideas and get feedback from other artists.

An exhibit that runs through April 1st NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, called Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952-1965, looks at the way the galleries allowed a greater diversity of styles to be exhibited for public viewing.

Wesselmann was able to exhibit his work at the Judson Gallery, in the basement of the Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, which he founded in 1959 with Jim Dine and Marc Ratliff. The gallery allowed artists to present their work without censorship.

His Great American Nude series was what brought Wesselmann’s work to the attention of the mainstream art world. He also did still life collage and landscapes, and experimented with different media, like plexiglass and metal, and always returned to figurative work.

“At first glance, my pictures seem well behaved, as if—that is a still life, O.K.” he wrote, “But these things have such crazy give-and-take that I feel they get really very wild.”

We have fine examples of Tom Wesselmann’s steel cut and screenprint work for sale in our gallery. And, yes, some of them do look well-behaved, but each of them does have a touch of the wild. Come in to view the works, or contact us if you would like more information about the Wesselmann work available at VFA.

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Roy Lichtenstein: Like Comfort Food

How it Began

Early in his career, Roy Lichtenstein had done abstract expressionist paintings, with comic book characters embedded in the canvas, but it wasn’t until he began to strengthen his lines and use Ben Day dots to show texture and color, that his style became his own.

“What I did in these early paintings was frightening to me, really.” he said,”It seemed to go counter to a sense of taste I had developed, along with, I had hoped, a sense of art. Except I knew it had meaning and I new, very shortly, it had more meaning than the things I’d done before. But because it was so different, it was really frightening.”

In 1962, Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist were, independently, using comics and commercial pop subjects in their paintings, but it was Lichtenstein’s work that became the first exhibition of comic book paintings to be exhibited at the Leo Castelli gallery in February of 1962. The show sold out and Lichtenstein’s reputation as a pop artists was established. Leo Castelli became Lichtenstein’s art dealer from the time of that first exhibition until his death in 1997, although they never signed a formal or entered into a legal agreement for representation. It was a partnership built on trust.

Finding the Familiar

There is an element of coolness and aloofness in his paintings, partly because of his industrial, draftsman-like style, and partly because of the tongue-in-cheek way he portrayed his subjects.

Looking back at Lichtenstein’s work, more than half a century later, there’s a nostalgia and warmth that mid-century museum and gallery patrons might not have felt. Keds, the Step-on Can with Leg, Sandwich and Soda and the ruffled curtains in Portrait with Still Life feel very American, with a hint of the 1940s. Keds have been around since 1916 and the kitchen ‘pedal bin’ since 1924. The images are modern and Pop, for sure, but also soothing and familiar, like comfort food.

Lichtenstein’s work looks as wonderful today as it did when he created it. If you’re lucky enough to be in LA in the next few weeks, there’s still time to see the Lichtenstein retrospective at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Roy Lichtenstein for sale at VFA

We have some fine examples of Lichtenstein’s work at VFA. Please come in or contact us if you would like more information about the Lichtenstein works in our gallery.

Damien Hirst: Connecting the Dots


Damien Hirst has had a lot of good ideas during his 51 years, but not all of them have worked out. Recently, his idea for an eco-friendly, 750 home development in the town of Ilfracombe in North Devon, nicknamed Hirst-on-Sea by local residents, has gone south. His company couldn’t find a developer to get on board with his ideas, so Hirst has dropped out and another company will take over the construction of the town. Hirst owns a restaurant, hotel and a lot of land in the area. His 67-foot sculpture of a partially dissected pregnant woman, Verity, stands on the pier at the harbor entrance to Ilfracombe. Although some residents and visitors find the sight of Verity upsetting, it’s on loan to the town for just twenty years and will be gone in 2032.

Shark Tank Leak

One of Hirst’s major works, The Physical Impossibility in the Mind of Someone Living, a tiger shark suspended in a tank of formaldehyde, is spectacular, but there’s a hitch. According to England’s Royal Society of Chemistry, the tank is leaking. It’s leaking slowly…not enough to be an immediate danger to tank owners (his other tanks are leaking, as well) but levels of the carcinogenic chemical around the tanks were at five parts per million, ten times higher than the recommended limit.

A spokesperson for Hirst’s company, Science, Ltd. said, “We don’t believe any risk was posed to the public,” referring to recent exhibits of Hirst’s works.

When it was first unveiled, the British tabloid The Sun referred to The Physical Impossibility in the Mind of Someone Living as, “£50,000 for fish without chips”. Since then, it has sold for 6.5 million pounds (about 8.12 million dollars) and Hirst has become one of the wealthiest artists in the world.

Connecting the Dots

Damien Hirst was not a great student. As an art student at Goldsmiths, he was probably a better curator of  exhibits of his fellow students’ works, than at painter. While he was a student, happened to come upon a catalog of the Sigma-Aldrich chemical company, called Biochemicals for Research and Diagnostic Reagents. The use of colors in the catalog inspired Hirst to begin his Spot Paintings series, which solved his problems with colors, by allowing him to arrange complimentary colors without repetition.

Hirst says that, “mathematically, with the spot paintings, I probably discovered the most fundamentally important thing in any kind of art. Which is the harmony of where color can exist on its own, interacting with other colours in a perfect format.”

“The spot paintings were all about immortality,” Hirst said in a Guardian interview, “They’re just a total celebration of when you’re twatted, when you’re taking drugs, when you’re under the table. In that moment, you feel you can live for ever. Then you just get to the point where you think you’ve got less time in front of you than behind you.”

Hirst says that he has not been “twatted” in a while…that he’s been clean and sober since 2009. His Newport Street Gallery, in south London, which houses his own collection and features exhibits of other artists, is free and open to the public.

Hirst is painting, making a movie about a shipwreck and still making as much news about his life as he is about his art.

Spot Paintings and Other Damien Hirst Works For Sale at VFA

Come in for a visit, or give us a call, if you have questions about the works of Damien Hirst for sale at Vertu.

Andy Warhol: How He Saw Himself and Everyone Else

I believe in low lights and trick mirrors. A person is entitled to the lighting they need…”
—Andy Warhol

Two shows at the Warhol Museum bridge the gap between the way Andy Warhol viewed himself and the way in which he viewed others. My Perfect Body just ended and Stars of the Silver Screen is coming this month.

How Andy Saw Himself

Andy Warhol’s self-image was something that he grappled with throughout his life.

In his autobiography, Warhol wrote, “I believe in low lights and trick mirrors. A person is entitled to the lighting they need…At one time, the way my nose looked really bothered me – it’s always red – and I decided that I wanted to have it sanded…I went to see the doctor and I think he thought he’d humor me, so he sanded it and when I walked out of St. Luke’s Hospital, I was the same underneath but had a bandage on…If I didn’t want to look so bad, I would want to look ‘plain.’ That would be my next choice.”

Andy Warhol’s skin began to lose pigment when he was about eight years old. He developed acne and rosacea, which made his skin appear red and blotchy in places. He was teased by other children, who called him Spot or Andy the Red-Nosed Warhola. Much of his time was spent at doctor appointments, in an attempt to improve the appearance of his face.

In their book, Overcoming Body Image Problems including Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), authors Alex Clarke, David Veale and Rob Willson say that Warhol probably suffered from BDD. BDD is characterized by, “a discrepancy between how others rate their appearance (or whether it is important to them) and how the person rates themselves.”

As an adult, Warhol used collagen to minimize wrinkles in his face and donned wigs to cover up hair loss, which occurred not just on his head, but on his body, as well.

How Andy Saw Everyone Else

As a young boy in Pittsburgh, Warhol and his two older brothers often went to the local cinemas. Andy was fascinated by the glitz and glamor of the films of the 1930s and ‘40s. He sent away for fan photos, hung movie posters on his walls and devoured movie magazines.

His fascination with famous and glamorous people continued through his adulthood. A biography of Frank Sinatra was found on his bedside table when he died in 1987.

Most of his paintings of celebs, including Mona Lisa, appear to have been done with detached observation, focused more on Warhol style than subject substance, yet manage to elicit strong emotional response from the viewer. Even the soup cans, soda bottles and candy boxes were loaded with sentiment that spurred reactions.

How Andy Painted Himself

Warhol was often painted and photographed by other artists and did many self-portraits throughout his lifetime. In many, he appears happy and self-confident, although those closest to him say that he was shy and not as confident as he appeared in public.

One of his most remarkable self-portraits, part of the Guggenheim collection, was done when Warhol was 58, just a year before his death. The silkscreen on canvas is nearly nine feet square. While most of his portraits usually included the subject’s neck and shoulders, this self-portrait looks like a disembodied head floating on a black background.

Warhol may have just accepted what he saw as his physical shortcomings as he matured.

Andy Warhol at VFA

We have many of Warhol’s portraits available at VFA. Please contact us for more information about the collection in our gallery.

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Jasper Johns: A Tribute at Tiffany’s

Jasper Johns will be 86 in May. He is still working and garnering the attention and fascination of curators, art historians, collectors and gallery goers.

A Tribute at Tiffany’s

In the 1950s, Johns and his then partner, Robert Rauschenberg, were commissioned to design window displays for the Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue store in New York. Johns and Rauschenberg did commercial projects under the name Matson Jones Custom Display. The artists designed a series of intriguing window displays for Tiffany that were dramatic, surreal and transformed the art of window display from ho-hum to elegant and exciting.

Tiffany & Co., on New Bond Street in London, has recreated some of Johns’ and Rauschenberg’s most dramatic displays to coincide with the Robert Rauschenberg retrospective, which is at the Tate Modern through April 2017.

A Single Tribute at Two Great Museums

The Whitney Museum of American Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art art are jointly putting together a retrospective of Jasper Johns’ work that will look at every aspect of Johns’ 60-year career.

The idea of two museums collaborating on what will be a single, complete exhibit is unprecedented. Johns has created such a large body of work, in both paint and print, that each exhibit will stand on its own and complement the other. The curators hope that visitors will go to both venues for a deeper look and understanding of John’s work.

Independent curator, Judith E. Stein, says that Johns has been a major force in American art. “This is unprecedented,” Stein said. “But that prescient decision was warranted. Johns helped change our definition of art coming out of the period of abstract expressionism and gesture. . . . What his art led to was a new way of seeing, a new way of thinking about art.”

The retrospective is scheduled to open, at both museums simultaneously, in the fall of 2020.

Jasper Johns and Edvard Munch

The influence of Edvard Munch on the works of Jasper Johns is the focus of an exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The show was brought to Richmond from the Munch Museum in Oslo.

Johns first saw Munch’s work when he was twenty, at a 1950 retrospective at MoMA, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the inspiration of Munch on his work became obvious. It may have been the coming of middle age, the worsening AIDS crisis during those years and the loss of friends that prompted him, but whatever the reason, the resulting works are outstanding.

The show is called Jasper Johns and Edvard Munch: Love, Loss, and the Cycle of Life. Johns was especially inspired by Munch’s Self-Portrait Between the Clock and the Bed and used the image and motifs in many of his own works. Although the styles of Munch and Johns are very different, when seen side-by-side, the emotional impact of the works of both artists become clear.

The show runs through February 20, 2017.

Jasper Johns at VFA

We welcome you to visit or contact us to see the fine works by Jasper Johns available in our gallery.

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The Soft and Edgy Sides of Tom Wesselmann

Tom Wesselmann has been called  The world’s most famous unknown artist. Wesselmann died in 2004, and many of the retrospectives that have been put together, both in the U.S. and in Europe since his death, show both the softer side and the edginess of his work.

The Softer Side of Tom Wesselman

During his last years as an art student at Cooper Union, Wesselman produced collages that were not just tributes to Matisse, Degas and other artists, but a hint of things to come in his later work.

Just last year, exhibits of Wesselmann’s early works were shown at the David Zwirner Gallery in London and the Van de Weghe Gallery in New York. The exhibits of Wesselmann’s collages, done between 1959 to 1964, show the softer side of his work. Surrounded by pattern and texture, the subjects in the collages are often flattened and devoid of details, which are left to the viewer to fill in.

As his work progressed, Wesselman began to use more contemporary subjects, like consumer goods and, early on, managed to keep them soft and textured.

The Edgier Side of Tom Wesselmann

The progression of Wesselmann’s work became an exploration of form, not just the form of the female figure, but also the form of the canvas and the materials and techniques that became part of the development of his work.

Art historian Marco Livingstone, who curated Wesselmann’s first major retrospective in Japan in 1993, says that Wesselmann’s work is often misunderstood. “People made assumptions that these were pin-ups or ‘Playboy’ images, yet for him they were depictions of intimacy and sexual liberation.” Livingstone said, “He was working within a very long tradition of the female nude as a subject. He felt that he was just updating it for his time and his culture. The interesting thing is that it looks so eternally fresh. It hasn’t aged.”

It’s hard to pigeon-hole his work, and Wesselmann was considered a Pop artist in the ‘60s. Wesselmann was a private man who shied away the from the flash and pretentious side of the art scene. One of his earliest models was Claire Selley, a Cooper Union alumna who was his wife up until his death in 2004. He was also a musician and composer who loved country music and had his own band, although he rarely played in public. The song, I Love Doing Texas With You, written under his pseudonym Slim Stealingworth, was included on the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack.

Tom Wesselmann at VFA

We have some wonderful examples of Tom Wesselmann’s work in various media, from silkscreens to laser cut steel. Please contact us if you would like more information about the Wesselmann works available at VFA.

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Frank Stella: Surprising Influences

At age 80, Frank Stella paints with a compression gun, uses digital fabrication and 3-D printing to create his sculptural pieces. His retrospective at the opening of the Whitney’s new Chelsea location in 2015 was as exciting and interesting as his 1970 retrospective at MoMA, when he became the youngest artist to have a MoMA retrospective.

Surprising Influences

Rogier van der Weyden’s, Crucifixion Diptych, painted c. 1460, is one of Stella’s favorite paintings. It is effective, emotional and unlike any of the Early Netherlandish paintings of the fifteenth century. It’s clarity, precision and color had a profound influence on Stella’s work.

After graduating from Princeton at age 22, Stella moved to New York. His frequent visits to the Frick and the Met led him to a better understanding of the great masters.

Charles-François Daubigny’s Dieppe, painted in 1877, was one of the works that Stella saw at The Frick, and led him to see a direct connection between the old masters and modern works. Dieppe, Stella said, looked like it was done in a single gesture. “No art,” he said, “ is any good unless you feel how it is put together.”

Édouard Manet’s Funeral, done in 1867, is an unfinished work. Funeral is believed to depict the funeral of writer Charles Baudelaire, which was poorly attended because many of his friends were away on summer holidays and because of a threatening summer storm that day. Like Dieppe, the work inspired Stella to paint abstract landscapes that satisfied his notion of what a painting could be, how it could fill the space of a canvas and give rise to emotional content.

Stella said that the visual impact of the works of van der Weyden, Daubigny and Manet had such a profound effect on him, that he was inspired to make art with as much depth as the old masters.

Although much different in character than the paintings he so admired, Stella began to paint landscapes that were modern in design and still had the impact of the works he so admired. In 1958, Stella painted Seward Park, one of the parks on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In 1959, he painted Tomlinson Park, part of the Black Paintings series that catapulted his career when he was just 23 years old and influenced other artists of his generation to move away from abstract expressionism and create work that was more painterly, more thoughtful and more experimental in terms of the use of space in and around the canvas.

Creating New Forms

As Stella continued to work, he began to use more color and form. He combine painting and sculpture and blurred the lines between the two. From shapes on canvas to shaped canvasses to painted sculptures, Stella’s work continues to change as he creates with new materials and concepts.

Stella currently has exhibits and retrospectives in major venues in America and around the globe.

He lives in a townhouse in Greenwich Village and drives to his studio in the town of Rock Tavern, New York about sixty miles north of the city, every weekday.

We have some of the finest examples of Frank Stella’s work in our gallery. Please visit, or contact us, for more information about the work of Frank Stella and the other fine artists available at VFA.

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LA and DC Love Ed Ruscha

“When I got ready to leave Oklahoma,” Ed Ruscha said about LA, “I knew that it was swank and it sparkled and twinkled. You know, it just had some great magnetic attraction for me. I know that this would be a place to come to.”

Ed Ruscha has always loved Hollywood, and Hollywood has always loved Ed Ruscha, so it’s no wonder that his work is sought after in LA and that a film about him debuted at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

Another Ruscha for Leonardo DiCaprio

Ruscha donated a commissioned painting to a charity auction for Haitian relief, organized by Sean Penn. DiCaprio, who already owns some of Ruscha’s work, won the Ruscha with a bid of $125,000.

That’s a pretty penny, but considering the recent prices that Ruscha’s paintings and prints have been going for in recent years, DiCaprio got a good deal.

The record for a Ruscha painting is $30.4 million, which was sold at Christie’s New York in 2014, for his 1963 painting Smash. The art market has seen prices soar for Ruscha’s work. At least six of Ruscha’s paintings have sold for more than $3 million in the past two years.

Where is Rocky ll? Premiered at LACMA

The mystery of an Ed Ruscha work that may, or may not, exist is the subject of a film by screenwriter Pierre Bismuth. Bismuth, who won an Oscar for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, saw a 1979 BBC documentary about Ed Ruscha making a large, resin rock and placing it in the desert.

Bismuth was so intrigued by the documentary that he posed as a reporter at a 2009 London show of Ruscha’s work to ask him about Rocky ll. “You’ve done your homework,” Ruscha told Bismuth, “It’s out there, somewhere.” This admission by Ruscha led to Bismuth’s search for Rocky ll and his directing a film of the search.

Where Is Rocky ll? had its U.S. premier at the LACMA on January 13th. Bismuth hired a private detective to find the rock, which hasn’t been seen for nearly forty years.

No spoiler alerts here.

The President Gave the Gift of Ruscha…

During his years as President, Barack Obama gave prints of Ed Ruscha’s Column with Speed Lines to several world leaders.

The lithograph/screenprint is just one of thirty pieces that Ruscha and his wife, Danna, donated to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma.

To see more of Ed Ruscha’s work, available at VFA, please contact us.

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Shepard Fairey: Protest Posters, Helping in Palm Beach, a Hit in Hong Kong and Free From Detroit

Protest Posters

Shepard Fairey has created We the People posters, with which he hopes to flood Washington, D.C. on Inauguration Day. Since large signs are prohibited at the inauguration, Fairey plans to buy full-page ads in the Washington Post on January 20th, that feature the We the People images, which can be torn out of the paper and carried as placards or hung and posted around Washington.

Helping in Palm Beach

Shepard Fairey will be creating a mural for  the Perry J. Cohen Foundation, a nonprofit organization  to support the advancement of boating safety, marine and wildlife education and preservation, teenage entrepreneurship and the arts. The mural is planned for the Wetlands Laboratory at Jupiter Community High School.

“I was honored and happy to create art for the Perry J. Cohen Foundation,” Fairey said, “not just because I’m a parent, but also because boating has been a passion for our family for generations. I hoped to capture Perry’s likeness, but especially a bit of his spirit and love of the water.”

The foundation was established by Nick Korniloff and his wife, Pamela Cohen, when Cohen’s 14-year-old son, Perry, was lost at sea in 2015, while boating with a friend in the Jupiter inlet.

A Hit in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Contemporary Art Foundation (HOCA) invited Shepard Fairey to exhibit his work. The show, called Visual Disobedience, was highly appealing to the young residents of Hong Kong who, in 2014, protested the Chinese Communist Party’s pre-screening of the candidates for the leader of Hong Kong.

According to HOCA’s show’s organizers, Visual Disobedience, “explores the trajectory of Fairey’s career focusing on the theme of power and responsibility, contemplating the widespread abuse by positions of authority, and the response this exploitation solicits.”

Free From Detroit

Shepard Fairey dodged a bullet in Detroit last May, when a judge dismissed a felony case against him. The charges were brought against Fairey while he was in Detroit to paint a commissioned 18-story mural on the side of One Campus Martius, formerly known as the Compuware Building.

During his stay in Detroit, Fairey was accused of leaving some uncommissioned work around the city. The Detroit city attorney said that the city will file an appeal…so Fairey may have to go back to Detroit once again.

Shepard Fairey at VFA

For information about the work of Shepard Fairey available in our gallery, contact us or visit the gallery to see it up close.

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Looking Like a Lichtenstein

For Roy Lichtenstein, who was both an artist and an educator, one of his goals was to pass along history and culture from generation to generation.

His art swept through popular culture during the 1960s and is still relevant, more than fifty years later.

One of the most popular costumes for millennials, who were just children when Lichtenstein died in 1997, is a Lichtenstein look. There are tutorials, for both men and women, on how to become a Lichtenstein ben-day dot character. The pathos of the crying woman and the aloofness of the Lichtenstein man still speaks to us today.

“Well, my purpose, whether I succeed or not of course, I suppose will be up to history,” Lichtenstein said “but my purpose is entirely aesthetic, and relationships and unity are the thing I’m really after.”

Lichtenstein and History

Two of the most extraordinary TIME magazine covers in history were done by Lichtenstein in 1968. He was commissioned to do one cover for a story about Robert F. Kennedy, who was on the campaign trail as the Democratic Party nominee for president, and a second cover for a story about guns in America.

The TIME magazine story about Bobby Kennedy, and his bid for the White House, was published on May 24, 1968. Kennedy was shot just eight days later. “I also did a gun cover—the issue about gun control.” Lichtenstein said. “In fact, I made them both at the same time, and then Kennedy was shot. Which was pretty shocking. I had done the gun before he was shot and they published it afterward.”

The June 21st edition of TIME, with Lichtenstein’s chilling cover image of a smoking gun, pointed at the viewer, read, in part, “All too widely, the country is regarded as a blood-drenched, continent-wide shooting range where toddlers blast off with real rifles, housewives pack pearl-handled revolvers…”

Still Provocative and Evocative

Lichtenstein’s work still resonates with us because of his ability to capture emotions and experiences that we can all relate to. He elevated common objects and themes to the level of fine art.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Lichtenstein would have been very flattered to see all the YouTube tutorials on how to look like a Lichtenstein. Actually, he would have been very surprised to see YouTube at all, which didn’t exist during his lifetime. It’s to his credit that he has left a body of work that is still relatable, thought provoking…and imitated.

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The Fashion of Alex Katz

Alex Katz has been painting bold and cool portraits and landscapes since the 1950s. He’s 89, still works every day and has become an icon of millennials who relate to his daring aesthetic. “I was always trying to make something new.” Katz said in a recent interview, “But now I feel the world caught up with me.”

Katz’s art has been resonating with the world of fashion for years. He’s done designs for Barney’s and this month the Swedish brand H&M unveiled a line of clothing and accessories done by Katz. Fashion has always played a large part in Katz’s work. The Little Black Dress, bathing suits, hats, jackets have all taken center stage in his paintings. Katz designed stage sets and costumes, for about thirty years, for the dancer Paul Taylor.

“A lot of the art world is controlled by art historians.” Katz said in an interview for Paper Magazine. “And many of them think art is frozen, but actually, art is very connected with fashion. I think it goes in three-year cycles, just as fashion does. Fashion is a great big thing that goes through the whole European-American world, and art tries to hook onto it just like everything else. Many think that people control the art world and what’s in fashion, but they don’t. It’s something that runs amok. We artists don’t make this stuff up by ourselves…it’s just our response to the culture.”

The culture also responds to Katz, whose paintings, prints and sculptures have been exhibited in over 200 solo exhibits and are part of more than 100 public collections world wide. It was Katz’s Paris art dealer, Thaddaeus Ropac, who was approached by the Swedish company to see if Katz would be interested in creating a clothing line. Katz’s sleek style resonates both here and abroad.

“Painting is not an isolated art; it relates to everything that’s going on.” Katz said, “A good artist hooks onto the wave. Somehow, he’s in touch with what’s going on.”

Katz says he goes out less often than he used to and spends more time working in the SoHo studio that he’s lived in since 1968. He and Ada, his wife and muse, spend three months of the year at their farmhouse in Maine, where Katz has a large studio.

His paintings seem timeless, always fresh and his style very much his own. We used Late Summer Flowers to grace the cover of our downloadable ebook How to Identify & Buy Fine Art Prints. Please visit VFA or contact us about the fine work by Alex Katz and other great artists available in our gallery.

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Finding Helen Frankenthaler

A really good picture looks as if it’s happened at once. It’s an immediate image. For my own work, when a picture looks labored and overworked, and you can read in it—well, she did this and then she did that, and then she did that—there is something in it that has not got to do with beautiful art to me. And I usually throw these out, though I think very often it takes ten of those over-labored efforts to produce one really beautiful wrist motion that is synchronized with your head and heart, and you have it, and therefore it looks as if it were born in a minute.”
— Helen Frankenthaler

Helen Frankenthaler’s 1978 Marchioness, acrylic on canvas, was sold at auction in Germany last month. The painting had been stored, and forgotten, in the basement of a home in the South of Germany for thirty years.

The auction, at Ketterer Kunst in Munich, was the first time that one of the much sought-after large-size works by Frankenthaler has been offered on the European auction market.

The painting was estimated to sell for €250,000, the equivalent of $267,500. It sold for €625,000 or $668,750.

Frankenthaler’s Legacy

Frankenthaler’s did much in her six decades of painting to advance, not just painting, but printmaking, as well. She bridged the gap between Abstract Expressionism and Color Field, produced tapestries and ceramics and inspired a resurgent interest in woodcuts. Her stone lithograph technique was simple and elegant.

Her work part of the permanent collections of major museums around the world. MoMA is the home of some of Frankenthaler’s most interesting works, like Sky Frame and East and Beyond.

Frankenthaler received the National Medal of Arts in 2001.

Helen Frankenthaler at VFA

One of Frankenthaler’s greatest talents was combining Color Field with line and design. She perfected her work in print media over the course of her lifetime, working in her Darien, Connecticut studio.

One of the finest examples of her work, available at VFA, is Geisha, a 23 color Ukiyo-e woodcut on Torino paper, done in the ukiyo-e genre of art that was popular in Japan from the 17th through 19th centuries.

Please visit the gallery or contact us for more information about the works of Helen Frankenthaler and the other artists available at Vertu Fine Art.

Chuck Close in London

Chuck Close has long been one of America’s favorite portrait artists and an American treasure. Most of Close’s portraits are of Americans…his friends, celebrities, his family and himself. His work is part of the permanent collections of many major American museums, including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, but, until now, has not been included in any permanent collection in the UK.

Just as the Smithsonian collects portraits of historically important Americans, the National Portrait Gallery in London houses portraits of historically important Brits.

So it was quite an honor when Close was commissioned to do a portrait of Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, from 2002 to 2015. Before his service at the NPG, Nairne was director of programs at Tate and was closely involved in the creation of the Tate Modern.

It is a tradition for a portrait of the retiring director of the NPG to be commissioned, and Close was suggested because of his association with Nairne when a self portrait of Close was exhibited at the NPG in 2005.

I went away from the Gallery feeling both pleased and humbled that Chuck had responded so magnificently to the Gallery’s invitation. I hoped I had played my part.”
— Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London

Nairne traveled to New York and met Close at the studio of photographer John Reuter, who owns a 20X24 Polaroid camera, one of only five such large-format devices ever built in the 1970s and still working.

In an essay in About Face magazine, Nairne wrote, “I was over-self-conscious about my appearance, and aware that if I became a Chuck Close Polaroid then every hair and pockmark might end up showing. And I was equally conscious of my expression. Should I be smiling? With my mouth open or closed? How could I not look stiff and get some degree of warmth into my expression?”

Close created a water color portrait from the photo taken that day. “Flecked here and there with Chuck’s subtle choice of colours,” Nairne wrote, “it is a work as much about portraiture as about me. I went away from the Gallery feeling both pleased and humbled that Chuck had responded so magnificently to the Gallery’s invitation. I hoped I had played my part.”

Chuck Close donated the portrait to the National Portrait Gallery.

See Chuck Close Artwork for Sale

Mel Bochner’s Word Power

Mel Bochner’s art explores the power of words. His ability to combine words, color and texture has seen his work set new records at auction and is in more demand than ever. He paints, not just with oils, but with synonyms, and allows his viewers to find their own meanings in his words and their presentation.

Bochner’s 1969 wall drawing, Imagine the Enclosed Area Blue sold for $300,00 at November’s Art Basel in Miami.

The force of Bochner’s work is especially apparent in his Joy of Yiddish work, which was prominently displayed outside Munich’s Haus der Kunst, the museum built by the Nazis in 1937 to showcase what the Third Reich considered great German art. Bochner’s Yiddish words are boldly arranged at the entrance to the grounds, in yellow letters on a black background, the colors used on the armbands and patches that Jews were forced to wear to stigmatize them during Nazi occupation. The words themselves are somewhat fanciful, and open to interpretation, much like the Yiddish language. Words like KIBBITZER, KUNI LEMMEL, DREYKOP, ALTER KOCKER, MESHUGENER and PISHER describe a certain type of character. A Kibitzer is used to describe someone who like to chat and maybe even gossip, a Meshugener is a crazy person, but the terms are often used as endearments, depending on context.

Bochner grew up in a traditional Jewish home in Pittsburgh. As an apprentice to his father, a sign painter, Bochner became adept at integrating text and color. Always interested in language, Bochner is also interested in seeing the responses that his paintings elicit.

Blah, Blah, Blah is one of Bochner’s most popular works and has been used in many venues around the country. Bochner says he considers Blah, Blah, Blah to be, “the Black Hole of Language.”

Although Bochner’s lettering looks stenciled, it is all hand drawn and his technique, which combines engraving and embossing with oils, creates an industrial feel to his work.

Please contact VFA to learn more about the work of Mel Bochner and the other works in our gallery.

See More Work from Mel Bochner

Recent Works from Skilled Masters

For more than fifteen years, VFA has focused on bringing our clients fine art prints created by extraordinary artists. Our recent focus has been on three extremely skilled artists who have been producing Fine Art Prints for many years.

Alex Katz, Chance

We used Late Summer Flowers the work of Alex Katz, one of our favorite artists, on the cover of our eBook, How to Identify and Buy Fine Art Prints, because Katz’s work is such a fine example of masterful printmaking.

Alex Katz is not just a printmaker, he’s also a painter and sculptor. His recent work, Chance, available at VFA, is Katz at his most playful.

Katz began making, what he calls cutouts, in 1959. Frustrated by the physical boundaries of the paintings he was working on, Katz cut out the two figures in the painting. He says that Robert Rauschenberg encouraged him to hang on to them, and so he mounted them on plywood. He liked the results and continued to make cutouts. In 1961, playwright Kenneth Koch saw an exhibition of Katz’s cutouts and commissioned him to make props and sets for his one-act satirical play George Washington Crossing the Delaware. The play was an underground success, as was Katz’s work.  Katz’s cutouts of George Washington Crossing the Delaware are part of the Smithsonian Collection.

A large version of Chance was placed in a London fountain for public viewing before being taken to the Timothy Taylor gallery in Mayfair.

Mel Bochner, Amazing and Right On

Mel Bochner, one of the leading figures of Conceptual art in the 1960s and 1970s, has brought printmaking to a whole new level. Not only is his work compelling, but his techniques are, as well.  He has been creating digital images with Plexiglas plate cuts, which are turned into prints, using a high pressure hydraulic press.

Bochner’s works are thoughtful, often funny and ironic. His work is currently on display at the British Museum and at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Portland.

In the complex works, Amazing and Right On (for sale at Vertu), Bochner uses his thesaurus-like themes to explore language, design and art itself.

Chuck Close, Self-Portrait 2015

The miraculous thing about Chuck Close is not that he’s 76, paralyzed, and still paints, but that he’s 76, paralyzed and still paints so well. According to a July, 2016 New York Times Magazine interview, Close has been more seclusive, forgetful and physically compromised than ever, but he still works with the fervor of a young artist.

His Self-Portrait 2015, available in our gallery at this time, shows an older, scrutinizing self. The woodcut is done in his usual grid, but the image, with white beard and irregular features, appears as if Close is coming to terms with his older identity.

Please contact us if you would like information about these or any of the other works in our gallery.

Free Ebook: How to Identify and Buy Fine Art Prints

Free Ebook: How to Identify and Buy Fine Art Prints

We believe that the more you know, the more you will appreciate fine art prints.

In our Ebook you’ll learn:

  • A short history of prints from the earliest woodcut to contemporary processes
  • Which artists most influenced the making of fine art prints
  • What questions to ask when buying prints
  • The fundamentals of print identification
  • Terms and techniques for identifying fine art prints
Learn More