There’s not a painter in our time who deserves to be, and perhaps is, more beloved by anyone with eyes — by the forward-looking, the traditionalist, the academic, the pop-ist, the longer for an art that takes massive graphic talent and the picture-looker who just wants to have fun — than Wayne Thiebaud.
Fortunately for Pasadenans, his “70 Years of Painting” is opening Sunday (through Jan. 31) at the ever-better Pasadena Museum of California on Union Street in the Playhouse District. Ninety years old next year, Thiebaud, who grew up in Long Beach and has long lived in Sacramento and taught at UC Davis, will be feted at a gala museum rooftop dinner Friday night. He has the happy circumstance of his luscious but formal iconic cake-on-display paintings being lumped in with Pop, which gives those who look for such a place in which to put his work, while declaiming all the while that his style has nothing to do with any school.
And his assocation with Pasadena is a long one, too. From his Wikipedia entry: “In 1962 Thiebaud’s work was included, along with Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jim Dine, Phillip Hefferton, Joe Goode, Edward Ruscha, and Robert Dowd, in the historically important and ground-breaking “New Painting of Common Objects,” curated by Walter Hopps at the Pasadena Art Museum. This exhibition is historically considered one of the first Pop Art exhibitions in America. These painters were part of a new movement, in a time of social unrest, which shocked America and the art world and changed art forever.”
I took this snapshot of his paint cans today while getting a tour from the museum’s Emma Jacobson-Sive. As we entered that gallery, I saw Pasadenan Susan Futterman being photographed by our Sarah Reingewirtz. Emma said, “Janette (Williams) is here, too. I didn’t want to tell you guys in case one of you decided not to show up.” I had seen Janette walk out of the office a few minutes before I did. She was there to write about another show opening Sunday, being co-curated by Susan: “Behold the Day: The Color Block Prints of Frances Gearhart,” an astounding series of watercolors and wood blocks that will remake the name of the great Pasadena Arts and Crafts artist of the West who lived with her sisters at Fair Oaks and California.