Wednesday, September 28

Wayne Thiebaud: Great Still Life Artist and Singer from California

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Born in Mesa (Arizona), and transplanted in his youth to California, as a teenager he worked as an illustrator at Walt Disney Studios. During the Second World War he collaborated with the propaganda of the US Air Force. Then he devoted himself to comics and window dressing. In the mid-1950s, he decided to study painting in San José and Sacramento, where he set up an artists’ cooperative. In 1956 he met, in New York, De Kooning, Kline, Barnett Newman, Rauschenberg, among others. From 1960 onwards he would dedicate himself to teaching. A friend of Diebenkorn since 1964, in 2008 John Yau would confront their respective visions of a California that has had two of its great interpreters in them. The radiant Pacific, the skyscrapers, the rows of palm trees, the highways (in 1970 he would participate in the collective of the ICA of the Pennsylvania University “The Highway”, curated by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, the fans of Las Vegas) are part of his iconography, which he also shares with Ruscha or Hockney, as well as with photographers and filmmakers, who are not in vain talking about the State where Hollywood is.

In 1962, the year of his emblematic “Star Pinball,” Thiebaud participated, along with Dine, Rauschenberg, Ruscha and Warhol, in the pioneering pop collective “The New Painting of Common Objects” at the Pasadena Museum of Art, with Walter Hopps as curator. The following year he featured in several more of the then booming trend, including “6 more” at LACMA, curated by Lawrence Alloway. Despite all this, although he also liked, like Robert Indiana, to surround himself with those trifles that they designate as “American” there, for my part I have never seen too much sense to contemplate as pop who always criticized the flat character and unattractive of Warhol’s paintings, and claimed himself as an old-fashioned painter.

In addition to landscapes, Thiebaud has imposing figures. However, all this is covered (look on the internet to check it) by his still lifes, which are the ones that have received the most attention from the public and critics. Still lifes painted morosely, with dryness and a sophisticated use of typical scratchy North American colors. Row geometry of sandwiches, canapes, hot dogs, cheeses, cakes, ice cream, gum, trinkets or lipsticks. Morandi was one of his beacons in this field: one more fact that takes him away from pop. In 2003 and 2006, his son, Paul Thiebaud, exhibited Italian in his gallery in San Francisco. Died in 2010, he did not get to see his father’s exhibition that the Morandi Museum in Bologna presented in 2011. In the United States, the two most important retrospectives of the painter have been that of the Whitney in New York (2001), and that of the Palm Springs Art Museum (2019).

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