Horace Clifford Westermann was born in 1922 in Los Angeles, California. He attended Los Angeles City College for two years before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1942, serving aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise during World War II in the Pacific. Following the war, Westermann enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago, before reenlisting for a tour of duty in the Korean War. Upon his return, Westermann reenrolled at the Art Institute, and staged his debut solo exhibition at the Allan Frumkin Gallery in 1958. In 1959, he married the painter Joanna Beall, with whom he moved to Brookfield Center, Connecticut, in 1964. Westermann’s work has been the subject of numerous solo presentations, including recent exhibitions at the Museo National Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Fondazione Prada, Milan; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. His work is held by many public institutions, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago. Westermann lived and worked in Brookfield Center until his death in 1981.
H.C. Westermann is beloved for a type of sculpture that’s a potent mix of Dada and old, weird Americana. But this modest yet gripping exhibition also reveals that he was a marvelous draftsman with a sharp, satirical wit. Along one wall is a group of drawings, inspired by a road trip the artist took with his wife, that skewers 1960s fantasies of the Wild West.
In many ways 2015 was a year of historical return for New York’s galleries, with successful exhibitions of the Memphis group (“wacky, boldly kitsch-adjacent design”), Hollis Frampton (“penetrating, conceptually-oriented photography”), and septuagenarian Lynn Hershman Leeson (“started making alliances between art and science well before trendy millennial artists”).
Despite her having just closed three concurrent solo shows at the New York and L.A. locales of Venus (formerly Venus Over Manhattan and Venus Over Los Angeles) and Carl Freedman, the long, narrow space is bursting at the seams with brightly colored, electric paintings of watermelons, sharks, and bananas.
Consider that Westermann was a veteran of two major battles of the twentieth century - World War II and the Korean War - and those "charming little robots and Shaker-style objects that people call "nice" and "cute suddenly seem a lot more funereal, prosthetic, terrified.
H.C. Westermann: 'See America First: Works from 1953-1980' (through Dec. 19) No one who cares about contemporary art should miss this terrific exhibition of sculptures, drawings, prints and illustrated letters by H.C. Westermann.
"See America First," a comprehensive exhibition of sculptures and drawings by the late, great H.C. Westermann, is on view now at Venus Over Manhattan. The installation features a wide range of Westermann's work, spanning from 1953 to 1980. Here are 11 Things You Need To Know about the artist before you visit the exhibition:
“Homage to American Art (Dedicated to Elie Nadelman)” is one of 38 sculptures in “See America First,” a terrific exhibition of works by the great American visionary H. C. Westermann (1922–1981) at Venus (formerly Venus Over Manhattan).
Venus Over Manhattan (980 Madison Avenue) has a show by "eccentric art world maverick" H.C. Westermann called "See America First" opening on November 2nd, 6 to 8 p.m., and up until December 19th.