As I had planned, I did see the Wayne Thiebaud retrospective at Acquavella Gallery. The thing about Thiebaud’s painting is that a few select pieces are just mind-blowing, and a lot of the other works are just ok. A few years ago I interned at the Toledo Museum of Art, right after they had acquired a Thiebaud painting; it was positively stunning. Taking a close look at the silverware reveals tiny strokes of unexpected colors–greens and reds and yellows and blues.
That painting was enough to make me fall in love with the artist, but few of the works in this show were as rewarding to me. Perhaps the closest was a pastel that depicted pastels–it was highlighted in John Yau’s review for Hyperallergic.
There were four galleries, divided by theme; two of his famous still lives of food, one of landscapes, one of portraits. There is a reason he’s known for his still lives; they’re better than the other categories. His cityscapes usually involve some unexpected skewed perspective: a street that tilts too far, intersecting buildings at strange angles. They’re a bit too obvious, and their garish sunset colors are distracting. Far better then was a charcoal drawing of the same subject–it made the surreal perspective more subtle, the black and white contrast making for a much more appealing composition.
There was a similar issue with the portraits: they were far too intentionally odd, with still poses, neon highlights, unnatural arrangements of cosmetics. Again, the best of these was a more subtle and therefore successful kind of surreal, juxtaposing the true-to-life with the not: titled The Speaker, it featured a a scholarly gentleman at a podium all caught up in his notes, surrounded by an otherwise nearly abstract geometric setting.
The still lives are generally more successful, but as I said few of them excited me the way the Toledo painting does. I’m a big fan of whimsy: one that really fit this bill was an image of a square box of french fries on a white ground–it resembled a sled on a snowy field. Another love of mine is thick, tactile paint strokes. I was just getting to one of the thickest when the guards kicked us out, and I didn’t get to stare at it as long as I would have liked.
I tried to go to the Calder bronze show, but even though they claimed to be open til 5:30, the gallery seemed to be closed. It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, after all. Probably going to MoMA tomorrow! Reports to come.