Art historian Kerstin Mey asserts, “Painted cut-out-like female figures by John Wesley, Tom Wesselmann’s American Nudes or Mel Ramos and James Rosenquist’s eroticised imageries, which objectify women in a pronounced manner, enlarging their sexual ‘selling points’, all functioned in a similar way. These ‘period’ pictures of eroticised, clichéd femininity, often unashamedly candid and exploitative, evolve from a sanitised and sterile hedonism of consumption that marked in particular the American version of 1960s and 1970s Pop Art…” (Kerstin Mey, Art and Obscenity, London 2007, p. 28). Thus Wesley not only recycles but also powerfully reconstructs earlier ideas about femininity, sexuality and gender, as though the clichés of popular culture in the sixties had been “dipped in the pool of the artist’s unconscious and come out soaked with private meanings, associations and feelings” (Ken Johnson cited in: Randy Kennedy, ‘Pop and Rococo Meet and Greet’, The New York Times, 8 June 2009, online). Wesley has created an oeuvre as expressive as it is spectacular, of which Showboat plays a transformative part.
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