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Wayne Thiebaud Figure Drawings

Project Room

April 24 – May 30, 2014

Allan Stone Projects is pleased to announce an intimate Project Room exhibition of six early Wayne Thiebaud figure drawings, on view May 2014, during the first half of the exhibition Robert Mallary Sculptor (main gallery, April 24-June 27, 2014), as a reflection on the long friendship these two artists maintained. The installation will include four works from the 1960s: Mallary Ann, an image of Thiebaud’s daughter who is named after Robert Mallary; Portrait of Bill Ittman; Girl in Striped Sweater; and a male sunbather; as well as two nudes from the 1970s.

Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920) and Robert Mallary (1917-1997) met while working as commercial artists for Rexall Drug Company, in the 1940s. Mallary was also an aspiring fine artists who, in Thiebaud’s words, “introduced me to the idea of the life of the mind.” (1)

“[Mallary’s] the first one who showed me how dumb I was, and how I better get myself together if I was going to take seriously the idea of doing anything. But, as I expressed an interest in fine art at that time -- because I had been going to museums -- he really gave me my first serious critical confrontation with how hard you had to work, how you had not to expect much, because you were dealing with a tradition which was an extraordinary community of excellence. So you prepared yourself, and you should say to yourself, ‘I’m lucky to be in this community of excellence,’ and you may not do very much, but it should be serious, well-intentioned and highly critical. And he was one of the most extraordinary, foremost critics -- to this day -- I’ve ever met.” (2)

Thiebaud also credits Mallary for making an initial introduction of his work to gallerist Allan Stone in the early 1960s. Mallary had his first exhibition with Allan Stone Gallery in 1961, and it was through that relationship that Thiebaud's work first became known to Stone. At first, Stone had reservations about the work, but after he could not get it out of his head, embarked on a long dedication to Thiebaud as mentor, adviser, dealer, friend and enthusiastic collector. From that watershed event, Thiebaud rose to his current prominence with over 20 solo exhibitions at the Allan Stone Gallery.

Thiebaud regards an artist’s capacity to handle the figure as central to the craft: “I think it’s the most important study there is and the most challenging and the most difficult.” (3) Thiebaud’s early 1960s figurative work coincided with the interests of many of his contemporaries at the time, including Philip Pearlstein, Alex Katz, and Alfred Leslie. It was this commitment to the human form that marked, according to Karen Tsujimoto, the debut of a “new realism” in American art.

Many of Thiebaud’s early drawings have a personal quality that contrasts strongly with the sense of detachment the paintings often possess. Upon studying these intimate works, one feels a closeness, almost a familiarity and affection for the subjects. Drawing, as Thiebaud once said, is a way “to test what one can know about the look of such things as grace, sensuality, affectation, tension, repose, ineffableness, and those mysterious characteristics which remain between a question and an answer.” (4)

1. Oral history interview with Wayne Thiebaud, 2001 May 17-18, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. accessed 4/9/14
2. Wayne Thiebaud Interview, Academy of Achievement, Washington DC, page 3 accessed 4/9/14
3. Tsujimoto, Karen. Wayne Thiebaud. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 1985
4. Curtis, Cathy, “ART REVIEW : Thiebaud: Changer of the Mundane Into the Surreal,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 15, 1989, accessed 4/10/14

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