The nude’s stubborn affiliation with tradition can create embarrassing situations at a time when art is stubbornly anti-traditional. Of course, some of it depends on what you mean by tradition. Until modern art kicked tradition in the jewels, you could pretty well depend on the nude as artist choice to turn a profit on an aesthetically pleasing object.
Tom Wesselman’s Great American Nude Series, GAN, rode high on the wave of the vogue that was pop art. However, even when she was found in these new contexts, she seemed merely a twentieth century variation on an old theme, for good or ill, who owed a large debt to Boucher’s eighteenth-century Miss O’ Murphy. The latter work is still a fleshy image, but in both works, our Venus seems brooding and a little sad.
( see link at end) …On another level, with particular reference to Wesselmann’s nudes, it is perhaps the opposite of Boris Lurie’s adept transformations of female figures into graffiti. The sexuality of Wesselmann’s nudes is a remarkably abstract, pristine phenomenon despite, or possibly because of, the meticulously generalized renderings of carnal attributes and trappings. We see the reclining nudes with flamboyant silk stockings and garters; ordinarily, all that these would need would be a whip and a pair of boots to become the Spider-Women of a Jersey torture house. But instead the soft colors and blank faces make us think of “creatures met on Malibu Beach.” It is as if the Great American Nude series represents the results of a fractional distillation of all the femininity in the world, with an end product, tightly stoppered, of pure essence of Woman. A clinical specimen.Read More:http://popartmachine.com/masters/article/1110
Ultimately, it seems the nude in whatever weird context it may appear, can be debauched, degraded, and rejected without losing its potency for renewal, despite the esoteric maunderings that seem unrestricted in discussions of post-art. Botticelli, Titian, Manet; they all set an impossibly demanding pace, and it is difficult to escape that charge plugged into the source. Maybe its the same vast and intimate; but certainly, trying to represent the dramatic incident and the big narrative moment today is destined to fail: these very elements are absent in our own confused, unstable and sloppy, messy lives. The stories we tell ourselves or are told to us, as we try to fill the tank with coherence, logic and significance are flawed. Botticelli never had to deal with the “shock of the new.”