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As the region celebrates longtime UC Davis art professor Wayne Thiebaud’s 100th birthday in November, his profound influence on a new generation of contemporary artists will be the focus of an exhibition opening Jan. 31 at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, at the University of California, Davis.
Thiebaud is one of the world’s most recognizable, beloved and active artists, known for his cakes and pies, landscapes and cityscapes, and figurative paintings. Yet for more than 50 years, he was understood as forging an eccentric course. “He found his voice in a very volatile time in the art world,” said Manetti Shrem Founding Director Rachel Teagle. “Painting as a medium and practice was dead. Wayne championed a new path forward.”
Intertwined with Thiebaud’s artistic legacy is his enduring commitment to teaching. “He’s an artist who sees teaching as central to his purpose as an artist,” Teagle said. The professor emeritus first joined the university’s fledgling art department in 1959, where he taught for 40 years. “Wayne Thiebaud Influencer: A New Generation” considers his impact from the vantage point of 19 artists carrying his legacy forward into the next 100 years.
A lively array of contemporary artists who have been inspired by Thiebaud as a fellow painter as well as former students are highlighted. Andrea Bowers, Robert Colescott, Alex Israel, Jason Stopa, Jonas Wood and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye celebrate Thiebaud’s influence in surprisingly diverse ways, along with 13 mid- and late-career artists who studied with Thiebaud directly: Julie Bozzi ’74, M.F.A. ’76; Christopher Brown, M.F.A. ’76; Gene Cooper; Richard Crozier, M.F.A. ’74; April Glory Funcke ’87, M.F.A. ’89; Fredric Hope; Grace Munakata ’80, M.F.A. ’85; Bruce Nauman, M.A. ’66; Vonn Cummings Sumner ’98, M.F.A. ’00; Ann Harrold Taylor, M.F.A. ’85; Michael Tompkins ’81, M.F.A. ’83; Clay Vorhes; and Patricia Wall ’72. Nauman and Sumner share the distinction of being the first and last graduate students Thiebaud taught, as well as serving as teaching assistants.
Select pairings of Thiebaud’s works with those of the exhibiting artists explore how he forecast the future of painting through his personal journey to find meaning and reinvention in the medium’s history — and inspired his students to do the same. “As we move more into the 21st century, he was among the few who saw painting as a serious intellectual pursuit,” said Teagle, who is curating the exhibition along with Associate Curator Susie Kantor. “He brought innovation to his teaching in ways that continue to inspire and teach many future generations of students.”
Expanding the experience
The “An Exhibition in Progress” website invites the public behind the scenes as the museum documents the development and installation leading up “Wayne Thiebaud Influencer: A New Generation.” Every other week, visitors can expect significant updates as new art is received and unpacked, insights from staff, and archival materials. The site will also introduce the exhibition’s “New Generation” artists through exclusive video interviews and provide a window into the challenges and innovative approaches that are part of building an exhibition during a global pandemic.
Related exhibit of Thiebaud prints
Although Wayne Thiebaud is better known as a painter, he has also been a prolific printmaker, working in print for most of his career and producing over 200 designs. Drawn from the university’s Fine Arts Collection, “Working Proof: Wayne Thiebaud as Printmaker” features numerous printing “proofs,” many worked by hand, that were created as part of the printmaking process. Shown adjacent to “Wayne Thiebaud Influencer: A New Generation,” these works underscore the importance of printmaking in Thiebaud’s artistic practice, as well as his dedication to donating works to the university that can function as teaching tools. This related exhibit is curated by Curatorial Assistant Quintana Heathman.
“Wayne Thiebaud Influencer: A New Generation,” Jan. 31-June 13, 2021. Visit manettishrem.org for information about how to reserve your timed ticket.
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Art Wide Open
The Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California, Davis, is a contemporary art museum and cultural resource dedicated to making art accessible and approachable to all. It builds on UC Davis’ legacy of exceptional teaching and practice of the arts to offer engaging experiences and exhibitions that reflect and serve the community, now and for generations to come. The museum shares the university’s core values of innovative research, interdisciplinary experimentation and a commitment to educational programming: It’s a hub of creative practice for thinkers, makers and innovators. One-third of the museum’s 50,000-square-foot space is devoted to instruction, including a 125-seat lecture hall, classroom space and the drop-in Carol and Gerry Parker Art Studio. Opened in November 2016, the museum has earned LEEDv3-NC Platinum status, and has won numerous awards for its distinctive architecture.