Shotgun Review

From Santa Fe: Mountains

By Randall Miller September 12, 2010

At a very late stage in his career, Wayne Thiebaud is still vigorously engaged with the medium of paint. Of the thirty pieces on view at Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe, the majority were created this year and last. The primary subject of the show is monumental cliff faces, painted in a range of formal explorations.

Paintings such as Half Dome at Midday (1995-2010) and Sierra Peak (1972) are fairly traditional depictions of well-known geological landmarks. Other compositions, such as Layered Ridge (2010) and Layered Mountain (2010), suggest ruminations on pattern and repetition reminiscent of Paul Klee, yet are still descriptive of rock formations. Formalism is pushed even further in Sunset Ridge (2010) and Dark Ridge (2010), which feature square picture planes divided diagonally from corner to corner. These minimalist compositions create equal triangles of light sky and dark ground with indications of a tree line that reemphasizes the image as a landscape.

Thiebaud’s knack for spatial organization and painterly description are on full display in this show as simple gestures intermingle with dynamic shifts in color, breaking down complexities within the natural landscape into digestible patterns and signs. A few stripes of paint indicate a river or road; a scumbled orange disc against a creamy blue ground is a cloudy sky. Associations are created out of the most simplistic language, referencing images of things like “mountains”

Layered Mountain, 2010; oil on board, 15 x 13 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, NM.

that exist more as archetypes in the collective American conscious than as observed formations in nature. This semiotic thread has been a pervasive theme throughout Thiebaud’s career, applied to the natural landscape as early as 1972.  For the 89-year-old artist, it continues to be a rich source of exploration.

 

 

Mountains is on view at Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe, NM through September 25, 2010.

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