The Manetti Shrem Museum: Looking Back and Ahead on UC Davis’ Legacy Artists

Exhibition Featuring Wiley Opens in January, We Said Goodby to 2 Former Art Faculty This Year

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William Wiley's face is reflected in his work, The Gong
William T. Wiley's face is reflected in "The Gong" a work he came to see when it was delivered to campus years ago. It now sit on the east side of the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

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Abstract art with oranges and browns
William T. Wiley, Reflections on Egypt, 1964. Oil on Masonite, 28 ½ x 28 ½ in. Private collection, courtesy Parker Gallery, Los Angeles. © William T. Wiley.

William Wiley and the Slant Step: All on the Line in January

Even as we said goodbye to Professor of Art Emeritus William Wiley last year, as depicted in this story, his art lives on in a new exhibition coming early next year to UC Davis at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art.

From 1962 to 1969, while teaching at the University of California, Davis, William T. Wiley developed a complex methodology and compound symbol language to explore philosophical, environmental and psychological questions across all available media. The results are startling, often beautiful and always engaging. William T. Wiley and the Slant Step: All on the Line will have a special focus on Wiley and his former student Bruce Nauman’s 1965-66 Slant Step project: It will gather for the first time many of the Slant Step objects made by both artists, which epitomized Wiley’s outlook on art and jump-started conceptual art in Northern California. The exhibition derives from five years of curatorial research and a close collaboration with the artist. The exhibition is curated by Dan Nadel and opens in January.

William T. Wiley, was an ingenious and witty artist, an early member of the Art Department — joining the faculty in 1962 – and an enthusiastic teacher, profoundly influencing his students which included Bruce Nauman, Deborah Butterfield, Richard Shaw, and Stephen Kaltenbach.

Wiley was not limited by medium; he worked in watercolor, oil paint, music, sculpture, printmaking, film, theater and performance art. His works are in the collections of numerous museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Chicago Art Institute and many more. He had a retrospective at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2009 (What’s It All Mean: William T. Wiley in Retrospect), appeared in the Venice Biennale (1980) and the Whitney Biennial (1983). In 2004, Wiley was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

More on the Manetti Shrem exhibition that opens Jan. 8 here.

Manuel Neri: sculptor of many forms

Manuel Neri, sculptor of many figures, mostly in plaster, also died this year in October. Neri was another from that elite 1960s-origin group of faculty. His art continues to live outside and inside the museum. See it in the museum when it opens Jan. 8 or walk over there and see it near the parking structure on the west side of the mueum. More about his art, life and death here. 

A human form statue in shadow
A Manuel Neri sculpture, in shadow, as it appears on a spring afternoon on the west side of the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Thiebaud at 101

If you missed the 2021 exhibition featuring Thiebaud and the artists he influenced, you are in for a treat. The virtual catalog (they are not calling it that, but it practically is a catalog) is still available online. Read all about that exhibition, Wayne Thiebaud Influencer: A New Generation, as well as an additional exhibition of the art of Arnold Joseph Kemp here

Thiebaud’s profound influence is front and center in this celebration of the longtime UC Davis art professor’s centennial. Nineteen contemporary artists who have been inspired by Thiebaud as a fellow painter, including a selection of his former students, are highlighted. Explore how Thiebaud forecast the future of painting through his personal journey to find meaning and reinvention in the medium’s history, in ways that are both current and timeless.

SF MOMA has a 100th birthday tribute book for sale. Makes a great gift. (But the Manetti Shrem’s museum exhibition “catalog” is free.)

Three treats
Wayne Thiebaud, Three Treats, 1975-76. Oil on panel, 10 ½ x 11 ⅞ in. (26.7 x 30.2 cm). Fine Arts Collection, Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, University of California, Davis. Promised gift of Betty Jean and Wayne Thiebaud. © 2020 Wayne Thiebaud / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

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