‘Wayne Thiebaud: Summer Days’ at Acquavella Galleries

 

 

 

Wayne Thiebaud in the exhibition Summer Days at Acquavella Galleries, 2024

Acquavella Galleries opened its doors to Wayne Thiebaud: Summer Days, which will be on view from April 26th through June 14th in New York. The exhibition, organized in collaboration with the Wayne Thiebaud Foundation, presents works from multiple decades of the artist’s career and tracks his sustained interest in recurring subject matter, here offering a nostalgic look at American life passing through the heat of summer. In Summer Days the artist’s many paintings play with both present and past, tasking the viewer to relax amongst scenes of warmth, indulgence, and distant serenity. Rendered in candy-colored impasto, the exhibition includes examples of Thiebaud’s paintings of sweets, hot dogs, bathing suits, and whirling beach scenes, among other subjects.

Here are a few photo’s from an exhibition where the ice cream in these gorgeous paintings almost looks like they’re melting.

Wayne Thiebaud rose to prominence in the 1960s at the same time as Pop artists Andy Warhol. Roy Lichtenstein, and James Rosenquist, though he did not feel aligned with the movement. Unlike these contemporaries, many of whom embraced commercial techniques, Thiebaud described himself as a traditional painter of illusionistic forms. He repeatedly tackled familiar, everyday subjects to challenge and explore the formal possibilities of painting. His meticulously crafted surfaces are steeped with art historical references and a subtle longing for a sweeter time.

Wayne Thiebaud in the exhibition ‘Summer Days’ at Acquavella Galleries, 2024

In Strawberry Cone (1969) the simplicity of the composition highlights Thiebaud’s technical approach to his paintings. Richly painted in pastel shades of pink, the ice cream emerges almost sculpturally against a stark, blank background, its thick layers of paint bulging past the flat plane of the canvas. Dedicated to a tradition of figuration, Thiebaud’s Strawberry Cone demonstrates the artist’s strength in color and masterful use of impasto and brushwork, with the swaths of creamy paint suggesting the ice cream melting in front of the viewer. His painting Jolly Cones (2002) reflects his sustained interest in the role of sweets as a collective experience, imbuing the painting with the same strain of nostalgia that he employed nearly four decades earlier.

Though most famous for his persistent rendering of still lifes, portraiture and landscapes were also central to the artist’s practice over the many decades of his career. His portraits reflect a similar modality as his scenes of food—highly stylized, colorful subjects set against distilled backgrounds. Betty Jean (1965) presents the artist’s wife sporting a striped swimsuit in profile, extending her focus past the edge of the frame. Rendering the face with a playful veracity, Thiebaud subverts the image subtly by changing the perspective of the torso to a three-quarters position, flattening the swimsuit’s stripes against the contours of the body. The brightly patterned swimsuit creates a moment of technical interest and abstraction that hints at a body in motion, ready to dip into summer’s waters.

This same subversion of perspective also defines the artist’s landscapes, blending points of view to create dreamy realities of the beach bending against water and heat. Tidelines (2004–2014) pushes the artist’s strength in landscapes to its limits, casting his beachgoers into oscillating passages of color. In the foreground, the beachgoers buzz with detail and motion, inducing a feeling of summer ease and nostalgia. As the painting recedes, however, the rendering of the beach distorts and twirls. In lucid hues of yellow, purple, and blue, Thiebaud disrupts the atmospheric perspective with a quickening flatness, rejecting the vanishing point for an absorbing color field thick with movement and animated brushwork. Echoing lapping waves and the long hours of summer days, Tidelines welcomes the viewer into a hypnotizing scene reminiscent of calm, playful vacations in thick heat.

Wayne Thiebaud in the exhibition ‘Summer Days’ in Acquavilla Galleries, 2024

Wayne Thiebaud: Summer Days tracks the career of the artist over six decades, revealing his retained interest in lighthearted subjects while casting them in traditional modes of painting. This exhibition celebrates the artist’s regard for the delights of the quintessentially American summer experience, from its sweet ice creams and chilled soda pops to beach games and barbecues, melting a grey winter into a fading memory. In his paintings, an American nostalgia gently invites the viewer into the season’s space, readying them for warmer days ahead.

The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with essays by curator and art historian Steven Nash and art historian Mary Okin.

Wayne Thiebaud: Summer Days will be on view through June 14, 2024 at Acquavella Galleries New York, 18 East 79th Street, NYC.

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