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Wayne Thiebaud: City/Country

May 14 - August 15, 2004

(above: Wayne Thiebaud, Towards 280, 1999-2000, acrylic on canvas, 54 x 60 inches. Courtesy: LeBaron's Fine Art, Sacramento, CA)


The Harwood Museum of Art of the University of New Mexico is presenting for New Mexico audiences the mature paintings of one of the nation's foremost contemporary painters, Wayne Thiebaud.

Since the 1960's, the artist has been associated with the pop art movement, after exhibiting his groundbreaking paintings of food and commercial objects at the Alan Stone Gallery in New York in 1962. Two separate themes he has explored besides objects and portraits, are a series of landscapes he started in the 1960's, and a series of cityscapes he began in 1973. The exhibition Wayne Thiebaud: City/Country presents fourteen paintings and two works on paper from these two series contrasting the artist's city and country landscapes, subjects the artist has increasingly explored during the past decade.

Thiebaud's work has always acknowledged roots from the art history of the West and East, and the cityscapes developed from his practice of plein-air painting and sketching, and combining various formats to result in new compositions. The cityscapes, executed in oil on canvas and later acrylics, push artistic limits with a greatly exaggerated perspective that emphasizes the verticality of compositions, and confront the viewer with an uncomfortable feeling of vertigo. (right: Wayne Thiebaud, Green River Lands, 1998, oil on canvas, 72 x 48 inches. Courtesy: Paul Baron Thiebaud)

Thiebaud's later landscape's that explore the flat river vista of his Sacramento Valley home since 1966, employ the use of the aerial viewpoint that mimics the perspective of Chinese landscape painting that are combined with brilliant Fauvist color schemes. The resulting exhibition contrasts the differences and similarities of these two unique bodies of work of the city and country landscape superbly rendered by Wayne Thiebaud.

Wayne Thiebaud has received numerous honors during his long career, including the National Medal for Arts Presidential Award in 1994, and an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from California State University, Sacramento, California in 1998. He taught at the University of California, Davis since 1963 until his retirement at the age of 70 in 1990, after which he became a Professor Emeritus.

In the year 2000, the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco California Palace of Legion of Honor organized the major retrospective exhibition and book, Wayne Thiebaud: A Paintings Retrospective, which traveled to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas; the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. The resulting book was published by Thames and Hudson, New York. This exhibition was co-curated by Charles Strong, of San Francisco and Taos, who also produced the insightful interview with Wayne Thiebaud. The Peter and Madeleine Martin Foundation For The Creative Arts provided major funding for the exhibition catalog. (left: Wayne Thiebaud, Dark City, 1999, oil on canvas, 72.13 x 54.63 inches. Courtesy: LeBaron's Fine Art, Sacramento, CA)



(above: Wayne Thiebaud, City Ridge 1987, watercolor on paper, 11.25 x 14.88 inches. Private Collection)


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Jack Smith: Taos Portraits

May 14 - August 15, 2004


(above: Jack Smith, Ron)


An exhibition of portraits by Jack Smith opened at the Harwood Museum of Art on May 14, 2004 concurrently with Wayne Thiebaud: Country/City. The exhibition Jack Smith: Taos Portraits features recent oil paintings of friends and acquaintances who live in Taos. Painted on copper, each of the fifty portraits being shown is just 6 x 6 inches in size. One of the most striking aspects of Smith's presentation is the sense of individuality he captures in each of his compositions.

(above left: Jack Smith, Geraldine; above right: Jack Smith, Olive)

In the catalog accompanying the exhibition, Harwood curator David L. Witt writes: "This is not a homogenous group -- they are not the look-alike models from the latest mail order catalog through which corporate designer clothing stylists set out the latest fashion. No problem telling these people apart. If there is a commonality, it might be that many of them have a somewhat somber appearance, or perhaps it is a kind of intensity reflecting the challenging life of the Taos Valley."

Smith has a long association with Taos beginning from the mid 1970s when he began the first of several periods in the community. He has lived in Taos continuously since 1990. After a quarter century of getting to know a wide range of local personalities he decided to paint a couple of his friends. The experience of this proved to be an exciting one and the portrait project soon expanded into dozens of paintings. These are not commissioned works, but have come about when he has approached people and asked them to sit for him. When posing his subjects, he asks for suggestions about how they wish to be seen. His models therefore participate in the process giving much thought on how to pose. After making initial sketches or taking photographs, Smith gets out his paints. (right: Jack Smith, Ross)

In a May 14, 2004 Albuquerque Journal article, critic Tom Collins said: " Sometimes, Smith accentuates the photographic genesis of the work by reproducing the distortions of the camera lens. The eye sees differently than the camera and it's easy to see how in some of these little paintings. But a painting, no matter how realistic, is never a photograph (or vice versa), and Smith's formidable talent is combined with a sure, nuanced ability with the brush that makes for some entertaining and instructive pictures. Rather than illustrating, Smith sculpts these faces in paint, shaping the features in juicy gobs of pigment at times, and smoothly feathering in delicate details at others."


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