Some friends and I visited the Wayne Thiebaud exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Art. This painter has been called a Pop artist and a California Modern artist, but really, the categories don’t matter. What’s inspiring about his work are two things: his use of vibrating color, and his sense of the absurd and above all the precariousness of modern life. Thiebaud rose to fame in the 1960s with his vivid images of cakes. But his landscapes really stand out for their fantastical use of perspective and color. I also loved his paintings of isolated figures – people paused in front of white backgrounds.
This was the opening image in the exhibit (from 1966). The vacant look on these women’s faces, as well as their hair and outfits, reminded me of a movie I recently saw about one man’s life in 1967, A Serious Man (made by the Coen brothers, and highly recommended, also for its absurdist vision of the world):
Oh, and Thiebaud’s bananas rock! What YELLOW yellow!
And did I mention he’s turning 90? And, it seems, still painting up a storm. This one is from 2005:
I bought the exhibit catalog because his paintings are such unique blends and uses of colors — I thought it would help me in my choice of colors in quiltmaking and any other art form I pursue.
I highly recommend this retrospective and any other Thiebaud paintings you can get around to seeing in person. Like all good art, they make a much more explosive impression in real life than they do in reproduction.