November 15, 2007

Thiebaud at the beach

"Wayne Thiebaud: 70 Years of Painting," curated by Gene Cooper. Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA. Through Jan. 27. Traveling to the Palm Springs Art Museum in February.

Laguna Art Museum's 53-painting survey traces the development of Thiebaud’s signature style but also includes many of his lesser known figural and beach paintings. In the LA Times, Christopher Knight is completely surprised by Thiebaud's beaches and bathers. "Who knew?" he asks. "In these pictures the nearly squint-inducing light is almost always sharp and bright. Daylight whiteness near the ocean harbors neon-rainbow highlights, while shadows tend toward sky-reflective blue, rather than colorless black. Even the show's very earliest work -- a deftly handled 1936 oil-sketch on board, precociously executed when Thiebaud was 16 -- shows a mustachioed fisherman in a rain hat. This old man of the sea is one of 31 drawings that further flesh out the painter's realist affinities. Usually mischaracterized as a Pop artist, Thiebaud instead paints in traditional categories of still life, landscape and figure. He's also a formalist, plain and simple, most deeply concerned with the structural considerations of visual form in paint. Postwar American artists typically harnessed formal rigor to abstract painting, but he has applied it exclusively to realist subject matter."

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