1928 · United States
John Wesley has created an ineffable body of work whose subject is no less than the American psyche. While many artists of his generation have used the popular image to explore the cultural landscape, Wesley has employed a comic strip style and a compositional rigor to make deeply personal, often mysterious paintings that strike at the core of our most primal fears, joys, and desires.
Originally grouped with the Pop Art movement, and later on linked, due to the essentiality of his production, to Minimal Art (to such an extent that Donald Judd and Dan Flavin were counted among his greatest admirers), Wesley eludes simple classification. In fact, Wesley himself found both terms (Pop and Minimalism) to be reductive. With his meticulously expressive line, self-reflexive color palette, and photo-based meta-representations (as Judd described them), Wesley remains a unique voice in American art, whose work is best understood not as an outlier to these two canonical movements, but as a reaction. Wesley keeps a great distance from the aggressive reality of Pop and the unambiguous materiality of minimalism in favor of turning inward toward a radical intimacy.
John Wesley has been exhibited and collected by museums worldwide since the 1960s. Surveys of his work have been held at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, curated by Rudi Fuchs and Kasper Koenig (travelled to Portikus); Museum Ludwigsburg, curated by Udo Kittleman (travelled to DAAD, Berlin); PS1 MoMA, Long Island City, curated by Alana Heiss; Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA, curated by Linda Norden; Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, Germany, curated by Martin Henschel; Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX, curated by Marianne Stockebrand; and Fondazione Prada at the Venice Biennale curated by Germano Celant. Since 2004, the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX. has maintained a permanent gallery housing its collection of Wesley’s paintings, as was intended by Judd since the foundation’s inception. In 2014, Wesley was commissioned to create a public art project for the High Line. The artist has had 14 solo exhibitions at Fredericks & Freiser.