Hearne Pardee writes about a trip with Wayne Thiebaud to see Thiebaud's Water City (1959), a 250 foot long mosaic at the Sacramento Municipal Utilities Headquarters, Sacramento, CA.
Pardee notes: "Essentially a gouache sketch translated into the ancient, permanent medium of mosaic, 'Water City' pays tribute to Sacramento’s two rivers. It lends public scale to the artist’s early gestural style, full of youthful exuberance and a certain cartoon craziness... [In Water City] Thiebaud constantly varies the compositional components; motifs reappear, but in new configurations, over the 250-foot span. A lively suggestion of city life develops, as lines of colored tiles gently intermesh, while floating shapes of lavender and yellow suggest the lights of the buildings coming on at sunset. Red-orange tiles evoke the heat of Sacramento’s summer, and irregular rafts of pink or lavender offer fantasy shapes, glyphs that encourage us to envision mosques or Venetian gondolas. On the western wall, vertically aligned dots suggest antennas and the airborne transmission of electrons, the invisible energy that animates this flickering metropolis."
Greenwald writes that the show highlights "a tight-knit group of Bay Area painters and sculptors spent the following decades making abstract and figurative artworks that contained the energy of New York School action painting without the grandiosity, creating a contribution to American art history that has yet to be fully appreciated... Explaining his turn away from Abstract Expressionism toward representation, Elmer Bischoff, in a 1977 interview for the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, said he was 'plagued' by 'tenderness, sentimentality, charm, seductiveness … lusciousness and sensuousness.' Beyond the lush brushwork in Bischoff’s two big canvases here, these paintings are spatially sophisticated. In 'Cityscape,'1965, the viewer is placed on an apartment balcony. Here the balcony railing and the overhang of the balcony above form interlocking Ls that create a sandwich of deep space and a strong scale jump from the elevated veranda to the skyline beyond."
Vonn Sumner writes about the work of Wayne Thiebaud on the occasion of the exhibition Wayne Thiebaud: American Memories at the Laguna Art Museum, on view through June 1, 2014.
Sumner observes: "The more traditional and honest Thiebaud tries to be, the more radical his work becomes. In this age of ever-shortening attention spans, he shows us a complex kind of long looking. In his later series of 'Cities and Landscapes,' especially, Thiebaud orchestrates a kind of anthology of seeing: glimpses, glances, infinite perceptual observation, and long-held memories, things seen up-close, from far away, from above, from below, frontally presented and from every conceivable kind of point of view and perspective—all within a single painting. Art writer Jed Perl has formulated that the very best artists of the Modern era are simultaneously radicals and traditionalists; Thiebaud fits that description as well as any artist I can think of. His achievement is not that he fit into a particular movement, but that he remained so impossible to categorize. He combines a certain 'Pop' sensibility with realism, abstraction, impressionism, cubism, cartooning, sign painting, and too many other influences to list. The result is an idiosyncratic American gumbo of a style uniquely his own."
John Yau writes about the work of Wayne Thiebaud on view in the recent exhibition Wayne Thiebaud: Memory Mountains at Paul Thiebaud Gallery, San Francisco.
Yau writes: "Memory Mountains revealed that Thiebaud’s deepest ambition from the outset was nothing less than the reinvention of generic subjects, such as still-life, landscape and cityscape — which may have been, for him, touchstones of reality. Formal devices such as perspective are to be explored and pushed, rather than accepted as conventions, and Thiebaud, in his recognition of perspective and cropping as critical to the viewer’s relationship to the scene, whatever it might be, has long been at the forefront of figurative artists investigating their radical possibilities. (In this regard, he is closer in spirit to an experimental, non-narrative poet than a conventional, narrative one)... Whereas de Kooning famously equated oil paint and flesh, Thiebaud seems to equate oil paint with nature — from impassive stone to ephemeral cloud, and from warm glowing light to portentous back lighting. He seems to pull his views of mountains out of an unpredictable brew of movies, cartoons, memories and direct observation."
John Seed interviews painter Wayne Thiebaud on the occasion of the exhibition Wayne Thiebaud: Memory Mountains at Paul Thiebaud Gallery, San Francisco, on view through December 21, 2013.
Discussing the theme of the show, Thiebaud comments; "There was the sort of opposite aspect of venerating them and having them be spiritual sources. That extreme -- from the sublime to the silly -- was something that interested me. One was the idea of humor: how I can find a seriousness in mountains -- which can be as sublime an idea as anything -- but then go all the way to a kind of silliness or ridiculousness. I find it ridiculous how we name them: oh, things like 'The Devil's Woodpile.' ... Another idea was the idea of position of mountains. We mostly see them -- and almost have to see them -- from afar, unless we are walking in them or hiking in them or driving in them. There is this tendency to see mountains pretty much in the distance and I just wondered what would happen if you tried to get them as close as possible. It seems that they are almost coming to overwhelm you: or that they seem somewhat ominous in their character."
Klein writes: "If Edward Hopper can be called the painter of the East coast certainly Wayne Thiebaud can be considered the painter of the West coast. What Thiebaud represents is post war America, what we’ve made, built, lived in and called our own. He champions a vocabulary of the commonplace and like his hero Morandi he makes monumental compositions from the simple and the ordinary; objects that you and I could find in our home on a shelf or in the garage. Not surprisingly Thiebaud can paint on a variety of scales and with a variety of materials as the works in this exhibition demonstrate. Nothing diminishes the impact of their character; one that is revelatory in color, light and execution."
John Yau reflects on the work and legacy of painter Wayne Thiebaud on the occasion of the exhibition Wayne Thiebaud: A Retrospective at Acquavella Galleries, New York, on view through November 30, 2012.
Yau writes: "At a point when everybody was squeezing space out of paintings, Thiebaud was putting it back in, while establishing a tension between surface and depth. The reason is that Thiebaud wants the viewer to be aware of his or her own body, and he recognizes that this is something that Pollock lost when he made his groundbreaking paintings. For all their materiality, Pollock’s allover paintings make it difficult for the viewer to orient his or her body to the painting — they take the ground we are standing on away. I suspect this is one reason why Thiebaud has never gained the favor of MoMA. He challenges their narrative, which claims this was the goal of painting."
Larry Groff posts a video of Wayne Thiebaud discussing his work and the work of Morandi.
In addition to revealing the direct influence of a Morandi painting on an early painting of sandwiches, Thiebaud discusses a variety of topics including caricature: "If you take something like caricature for instance, which is very much a central aspect of all painting, then caricature represents a way in which, probably, stylistic variants can be determined. If you use caricature in terms of someone like Bonnard - or Morandi - they're caricaturizing their forms, and that makes them unique, gives them a new identity."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.