High Line Art Announces John Wesley Billboard

JOHN WESLEY Nine Female Inmates of the Cincinnati Workhouse Participating in a Patriotic Tableau 1976 Acrylic on canvas Two panels, each 72 x 72 inches 183 x 183 cm

Pop artist John Wesley is the latest person to get the High Line Art treatment. His 1976 work Nine Female Inmates of the Cincinnati Workhouse Participating in a Patriotic Tableau will be transformed into a massive billboard at West 18th Street and 10th Avenue from December 1 through January 2, 2015.

Wesley is the sixteenth artist to be commissioned to fill the space, which has previously shown work by John Baldessari, Louise Lawler, Allen Ruppersberg, and Gilbert & George.

The billboard will reimagine the original painting, which shows nine women wearing either the original, thirteen-star American flag, or a prison uniform, depending on how the viewer chooses to see it. This kind of ambiguous humor and sparse, graphic illustration is evocative of Wesley’s signature style.

“The American flag is not only an icon of Pop Art: it is perhaps a form of public art on its own. It’s an abstract image usually displayed in public spaces, onto which people project different emotions and values, like they do when they encounter a work of art outdoors,” said Cecilia Alemani, director of High Line Art. “Wesley’s work is a portrait of America, but one that is not simply patriotic but reminds us of the many individual stories that are hidden in a nation.”

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