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Aerial Muse: The Art of Yvonne Jacquette

"The whole connection to 20th-century art propels me intensely. I guess one of the things I want to do is to keep discovering images, whole pictures that haven't been painted before, where the subject matter maybe is surprising or the way the subject matter interacts with the viewer is surprising." Yvonne Jacquette


The Utah Museum of Fine Arts is hosting the special travelling exhibition, Aerial Muse: The Art of Yvonne Jacquette, through January 12, 2003. Featuring 39 large-scale paintings and works on paper, the exhibition illustrates the development of the artist's immense landscape painting and prints from 1975 to the present.

From childhood, Yvonne Jacquette seemed destined to explore the aerial view. The second oldest of seven siblings, she remembers as a child drawing pictures of the household imagined from above as a way to distance herself psychologically from the domestic chaos of a large family. Later, in adolescence, she submitted an assignment about her wish to become "a portraitist of cities" for her English class. (Right: the left panel of Times Square Triptych II, 1986-87, Oil on canvas, Courtesy of the artist and DC Moore Gallery, New York)

After leaving art school at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence in the early 1950s, Jacquette moved to New York City. There, for approximately the next decade, she worked at two jobs that influenced her future career. First, she drafted designs of helicopters for government catalogues for the firm Royer and Rogers. The task involved understanding spatial relationships and geometry, concepts that became important in her painting. Second, she worked for a fabric company Galey and Lord, where she learned how color and line in two-dimensional design produce the illusion of woven textiles.

Jacquette began investigating the aerial view by chance in the early 1970s. Previously, she made studies of clouds while she was aloft in commercial airplanes, but one day, the clouds vanished, the land was visible below, and Jacquette decided to represent it. For decades, this vantage point has provided her with an array of perceptual, formal, and intellectual problems. Besides employing powers of observation and imagination, Jacquette's work also reflects earlier art movements such as Impressionism, Pointillism, Precisionism, and Abstract Expressionism; media including photography, film, and textile design; and sources such as Asian art and Buddhism teachings.

Jacquette revels in the ironies and paradoxes of the contemporary landscape, using an arsenal of approaches and techniques to achieve subtle aims. This exhibition, the artist's first major retrospective, brings together works from the mid-1970s to the present, and illustrates the innovative vision of this aerial muse.

The exhibition was organized by the Iris & B. Gerald Canter Center for the Visual Arts at Stanford University.


Following is the Introduction wall panel text for the exhibition, written by Hilarie Faberman, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art:


For 30 years, Yvonne Jacquette (born 1934) has represented the diverse places and spaces of the contemporary landscape. Like many artists who reached maturity in the 1960s and 1970s, she has pursued a novel approach, discovering in the aerial vantage point a modern perspective and fresh visual vocabulary. Drawing from the elevated position of high-rise buildings, commercial jets, and private airplanes, Jacquette produces both daylight and nocturnal views of cities and towns, coasts and rivers, factories and farmlands, and power plants, pastures, and woodlands. From Maine and the Northeast to California and Oregon, from Chicago and Minneapolis to Texas, and even in Tokyo and Hong Kong, Jacquette explores a range of subjects from universally recognized landmarks to industrial landscapes. (Right: the center panel of Times Square Triptych II, 1986-87, Oil on canvas, Courtesy of the artist and DC Moore Gallery, New York)

Yet, Jacquette is far more than a recorder of the contemporary landscape. She is its interpreter and visionary. Her works combine elements of abstraction and representation, pattern and grid, surface and illusion, and observation, imagination, and memory. Hovering vertiginously above city streets and highways, floating serenely over the countryside, and soaring over cities, harbors, and monuments, Jacquette explores the man-made and natural, urban and rural, agrarian and industrial, and the worlds of power, labor, and leisure.

In Jacquette's words, it is her pleasure to experience "the grand and goofy contingencies in nature" and "bring intimacy to vastness" in her landscapes. To achieve this goal she embraces a variety of contradictory tendencies. Her art is sophisticated and childlike, earthbound and heavenly, comic and grave, and ordinary and heroic. Careful scrutiny of her work reveals several levels of interpretation. In an increasingly complex and contradictory world, Jacquette's art suggests both the ease and difficulty of seeing. With wit and reflection, the artist meditates on the beauty, energy, and condition of the contemporary landscape.


Following is label text for the triptych in the exhibition titled "Times Square Triptych II," 1986-87, Oil on canvas, Courtesy of the artist and DC Moore Gallery, New York:


Upon her return from Tokyo in 1985, Jacquette was delighted to find that a high-rise hotel, the Marriott Marquis, was nearly completed in Times Square. She took a hotel room on the 15th floor for a week to make pastel studies with the aid of a telephoto lens. This "observation deck" provided the opportunity to work with two opposing distances -- the close-up neon signs and the activities on the street below. Diverse brushstrokes, painted on an olive-brown ground, are in places so intensely colored that they float free of descriptive function. (Right: the right panel of Times Square Triptych II, 1986-87, Oil on canvas, Courtesy of the artist and DC Moore Gallery, New York)

In Times Square Triptych II, Jacquette realized her aim "to bring intimacy to vastness." The viewer is a voyeur. Enormous neon signs of international conglomerates are juxtaposed to eye-catching advertisements for private attractions such as "Hot Erotic Interludes."

Like many of her New York subjects, Times Square had a personal significance for the artist. Rudy Burckhardt had filmed it, and she even commented humorously on their marital relationship in the movie marquee "Naughty Ruby with Yvonne and Desiree." In the panel on the right, just below the sign for Panasonic, are the letters "Tom," "Wea," "Fa," and "Coo," and an ideograph for the sun. On one level, this lighted electronic display signifies that tomorrow's weather will be fair and cool; on a personal level, the truncated works imply that the artist's son, Tom, is fair and cool.


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