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Weber, Idellefree

American, 20th century, female.

Born 1932, in Chicago.

Painter, collage artist.

Idelle Weber is a Chicago-born painter who is best known for her contributions to Pop Art. Recognized as one of the seminal female figures in the Pop Art movement, Weber’s singular aesthetic is characterised by flatly painted black, mainly male silhouettes in corporate work settings. The artist currently splits her time between New York and Long Island.

Weber started her educational career at Scripps College in Claremont before transferring to the University of California where she earned her BA in 1954 and MFA in 1955. In 1956, she was invited to participate in an exhibition of drawings at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; during her stay, Weber took several classes at the Art Students League.

Although incorporating a variety of materials such as Lucite, Color-aid paper, Mylar, and Plexiglas, Weber followed the flat, two-dimensional, photorealistic aesthetic of her contemporaries. Yet, she resisted examining topics of mass-consumption and production and instead focused on political issues such as the Vietnam War, racial conflicts, and the male-dominated workspaces of corporations. Paintings such as Lever Building 2 (1970) show the alienation and conformity of corporate culture. The painting is composed of repeated yellow frames that show male silhouettes in a typical office setting, the only distinguishing factor being their white shirts and collars. The dominance of the white male figure underlines the lack of women in the workplace. Titles such as Press Type Law Firm (1965) or Economist (1966) further emphasise the archetypal role these figures play.

Women make an occasional appearance in Weber’s work but are usually depicted as single figures exercising, as in Woman Jumping Rope (1966), sitting on swings, or in free fall. These active figures stand in contrast to the rigid immobility of the men. Weber champions the defiant depiction of women long before the women’s movement broadly publicised these images.

Weber’s paintings served as inspiration for the introduction of the 2007 TV series Mad Men and for Robert Longo’s The Men in the City (1980) series. In 1974, Weber began teaching. She has since served on the faculties of Long Island University, Harvard University, and New York University.

Group Exhibitions

1978, Women Artists ’78, Women’s Caucus for Art, CUNY Graduate Center, New York

1980, American Realism in the Industrial Age, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland

1990, Issues in Post-Modernism, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven

1992, Six Takes on Photorealism, Whitney Museum of American Art at Champion, Stamford

2003, Challenging Tradition: Women of the Academy, 1826–2003, National Academy of Design, New York

2008, Shock of the Real: Photorealism Revisited, Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, FL

2010, Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958–1968, University of the Arts, Philadelphia

Solo Exhibitions

1994, Colorado State University, Fort Collins

1998, Bermuda National Gallery, Hamilton

2004, Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor

2013, Idelle Weber: The Pop Years, Hollis Taggart Gallery, New York

2017, Idelle Weber: ‘Sunny’: Works from New York’s Pop Era, Broadway 1602, New York

Museum and Gallery Holdings

Brooklyn (Mus.): Ben Casey V (1962, acrylic on canvas); Ben Casey (1967–1969, plastic and heavy epoxy glue)

Chicago (AI): Blue Monday Man (1962, watercolour on white wove paper, tipped to blue wove paper); M L 11.92 (1992, monotype on white wove paper)

Los Angeles (County MA): Jump Rope (1967–1968, plastic and neon lighting)

New Haven (Yale University AG): Gutter I (1974, oil on linen canvas); Boston Lettuce (1974, oil on canvas)

New York (Metropolitan MA): Villandry II (1984, oil on canvas)

New York (Whitney Mus. of American Art): Lever Building II (1970, collage of paper, plastic and graphite pencil on paper); Cambridge Series A11 (1992, monotype)

Washington, DC (Smithsonian AM): Vampirella – E. 2nd St. (1975, watercolour and pencil on paper); Awning (1977, watercolour on paper)

Bibliography