Indecent exposure 

Tom Wesselmann's Great American Nudes are like billboards advertising, simply, "sex." This original Pop artist's nudes are featured in states of perpetual recline and come-hither vamping, arranging their bodies for the best view, making with the bedroom eyes and the parted legs.

Wesselmann's ultra-colorful prints in shades of lime, magenta, lemon Pledge yellow and grape are on the surface a critique of pop culture's continual reliance on a philosophy of "sex sells." These serigraphs at Skot Foreman Gallery in the Castleberry Hill district are contemporary versions of paintings the artist made in Pop's heyday during the '60s. In these more recent works made between 1985 and 1995, this contemporary of Warhol and Lichtenstein continues his wry critique of pop culture.

Using vivid colors and graphic lines, Wesselmann's Great American Nudes reveal the unrelenting obsessiveness behind the colorful cheerfulness of the American approach to sexuality. The festive colors and bare-bones style suggest outlines of previously existing pornography or coloring book treatments of raunchy material. As if indicating the irrelevance of individual women in the banquet of sex, it is nipples, pubic hair and banally seductive expressions that form the epicenter of Wesselmann's drawings. The eyes -- signposts to identity, personality and state of mind -- are often, significantly, missing.

But there is also a strain of ugliness and a flip tone detectable in the way Wesselmann frames his critique of women perpetually on display in works like "Nude and Mirror" and "Bedroom Face #41." The works are a commentary on pornography, but also tend to reaffirm female vacuousness. Wesselmann's women are as universal and inanimate as the fruit and radios and wallpaper that share the picture space. There is a certain bitter, callous quality to his approach, that lifts momentarily in genuinely amusing works like "Seascape Tit with Scribbles," a crassly humorous portrait of a breast silhouetted against a landscape that cleverly mocks the bald fetishization of body parts.

In their most appealing vein, Wesselmann's works point out a common fetishism in the high art treatment of women and a similar approach in pornography and advertising. But for the most part, these Great American Nudes feel like the leavings of a once central artist now selling off the remnants of his legacy.


Tom Wesselmann: Great American Nudes runs through June 30 at Skot Foreman Fine Art. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tues.-Sat. 315 Peters St. 404-222-0440. www.skotforeman.com.

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