c. 1946 H. C. Westermann (top) and acrobatic partner on deck of the U.S.S. Enterprise.
When thinking about the art scene of the late 1950s and ‘60s, most Americans think of the Pop Art movement and artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein in New York. However, in Chicago, H. C. Westermann was creating intricate pieces of art that played on themes of war, death, love and the mementos of a life. They were very hands-on personal pieces, different from the advertising influenced art of the masses that was the Pop Art movement.
Westermann was born Horace Clifford Westermann in Los Angeles, CA in 1922. At a young age, he submitted drawings to Disney Studios and was offered a job, which was later revoked when his young age was revealed. He also took an early interest in acrobatics, which continued into his adult life, resulting in a fellow artist commenting, “At times it seemed that I got to see the soles of his shoes as much as I did his face.” He joined the marines during World War II, and later re-joined during the Korean War, where he observed several kamikaze attacks, resulting in numerous deaths. Between the wars, and after, Westermann attended the Art Institute of Chicago, and stayed in Chicago to complete his education.
H. C. Westermann in Chicago, c. 1950s
Westermann was highly influenced by his time in the Marines and all that he witnessed. For example, the sculpture shown below has the appearance of an old sailor’s treasure trove, with its finely carved wooden lock and chain and the wooden rope clutched by the upright fist. Furthermore, every item contained within the chest speaks of an adventure or loss in some unknown person’s life, now tucked away in a static almost melancholy manner.
Korea, Mixed Media Sculpture, c. 1965 (The Smart Museum of Art)
Likewise, another sculpture, shown below, shows a military perspective of the world. A carefully balanced globe is topped by a silhouetted cut-out of Dick Tracy, while aggressive implements of war emerge from the surface of the globe. The orb also feels tethered by an intricate chain and pulley system, weighted by a mini skyscraper.
The Unaccountable, Mixed media Sculpture, c. 1959
Both items described above have a unique hand crafted quality, which makes them feel like personal artifacts. They are in distinct contrast to the Pop Art creations of Warhol and Lichtenstein. This is not to say that one form of expression is more important then the other, but rather it is an example of how differently artists can interpret the world around them, even within the same time period. To learn more about the significance of your items, please call or email MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.
Researched and written by Anja Keppeler
MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. Principal Appraiser: Farhad Radfar, ISA AM 307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308 Chicago, IL 60601 (312) 814-8510
MIR Appraisal Services, Inc., is located just steps from the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Cultural Center; please do give us a ring to set up an appointment for a verbal evaluation of your most prized works of art.
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