John Wesley

American | Pop Art

b. 1928

John Wesley (American, born November 25, 1928) is an American painter whose work bridges the aesthetics of Pop Art and Minimalism in both subject matter and style. A self-taught artist, Wesley began painting in 1953, while working as an illustrator for Northrop Aircraft in Los Angeles. His early career in the aircraft industry influenced his art, and lead to the presence of the airplane as a recurring motif in his work. In 1959, he married the American painter Jo Baer (b.1929), and one year later the couple moved to New York City, where Wesley would become part of the Pop Art movement and maintain close friendships with American Minimalist sculptors Donald Judd (1928–1994) and Dan Flavin (1933–1996). 

Although Wesley’s work often expressed more playful qualities than the work Judd created, Judd was an immediate and important sponsor of Wesley’s paintings, positively reviewing his shows and helping him to establish his reputation as an artist. Although Wesley adopted the flattened and brightly colored forms of Pop Art, his work did not criticize consumerism and seemed removed from Pop Art’s goals as he turned more to narrative, combining cartoon elements into his particular brand of high art.

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