Eloquent Visionary 2013
June Wayne: Eloquent Visionary
January 9 - February 13, 2010
When considering the work of renowned artist and print-maker, director/founder of Los Angeles’ Tamarind Lithography Workshop, June Wayne (1918 – 2011), the term “visionary” is almost too restrictive. Beyond her revelatory career as an artist, Wayne served as a lightening rod for arts advocacy. She wrote extensively on women’s rights and artist’s rights. By virtue of her exquisitely crafted examples and her meticulous instruction via Tamarind, she championed the legitimacy of all print media, almost single handedly rescuing lithography-as-art-form from extinction. She made an Academy Award nominated documentary film (Four Stones for Kanemitsu). She lectured, she moderated panel discussions and, in the 60’s, earned a Ford Foundation grant to run her very successful business. She made tapestries, paintings, and prints of every imaginable variation. Unto her last days, she was busy; she remained passionately involved with an articulation of what it felt to be human via object, word or deed. She ‘threw down the gauntlet’ to anyone lucky or brave enough to spend time with her. In person and via her art, she was and is a force to be reckoned with.
Early paintings explore geometric repetitions compressed and expanded to incorporate the human form. Palettes range from the glow of 3AM darkness to the neon of midday full sun. Though she celebrates the figure (Justice Series, Donald Bear Series, John Donne Series), her compositions explore the relationship/struggle between man, nature and man’s nature itself. Stars explode. Night seems built of velvet. Eyeless forms scale heights (Kafka Series), behave like heroes; yet their rise and fall seems determined by the wind. A tidal wave implodes. The weave of a thumbprint blooms atop a band of sunshine yellow, a drop of blood floats above. In each artwork, questions of identity are explored and re-framed with exquisite technical invention and the great heart of a consummate artist.
Ms. Wayne’ work is included in innumerable public and private collections. Louis Stern Fine Arts represents the artist exclusively.
June Wayne (1918-2011) is best known for starting and running the Tamarind Lithography Workshop, a world-renowned institution that has been going strong for 53 years. She is also known as an innovative printmaker, her own lithographs outstanding examples of what the medium can deliver. As a painter, Wayne is not so well known.
At Louis Stern Fine Arts, an introductory survey goes a long way to change that. “June Wayne: Eloquent Visionary” displays paintings alongside prints to reveal that Wayne moved freely between the media, gleaning insights from each and enhancing our understanding of both.
Her seven oils on canvas (painted from 1948 to 1955) are not as consistently successful as her 18 works on paper (from 1949 to 1985). The good ones, including “Cryptic Creatures, Kafka Series” (1948) and “The Chase” (1949), are knockouts, their out-of-left-field nuttiness so bold, fearless and original that it seems reasonable.
The clunkers, like “The Advocate” (1952) and “Study for The Messenger” (1954), come off as flatfooted illustrations of cosmic flakiness. To their credit, they create a kinky link between Roberto Matta’s sci-fi Surrealism and Summer of Love graphics.
Many of Wayne’s prints anticipate the hippie sensibility that flourished in California in the ’60s, including “The Advocate” (1952), "Tower of Babel A” (1955) and “The Travelers” (1954). Others, including “Lemmings Day” (1968), “Dusty Helix” (1970) and “Tidal Wave (1972), infuse their apocalyptic atmosphere with a well-meaning touch of Midwestern earnestness.
That odd combination of incompatible perspectives is what gives all of Wayne’s works their kick, especially the best ones.
Louis Stern Fine Arts, 9002 Melrose Ave., (310) 276-0147, through July 27. Closed Sundays and Mondays.www.louissternfinearts.com
An iconic presence in the Los Angeles scene for half a century, June Wayne was simultaneously a printmaker, a painter, a teacher, a writer, a filmmaker, an inspired organizer, a rabble rouser extraordinaire and a champion for the arts via objects, words and deeds. She began her pursuit of an art career at the age of 15 and though she frequently looked back, she never slowed down.In the earliest paintings (The Chase 1949, The Advocate, 1951), Wayne arranges brightly colored forms in carefully sequenced patterns. Blue diamond shapes explode and recede into a silhouette. Banners of an irradiant shade of orange bisect curvilinear graphics. The dramatic shifts in palette as well as the strong lines of the composition generate the illusion of texture within the paint itself.
In the important print series’ of the fifties (The Justice Series, The Kafka Series, The Donald BearSeries and The John Donne Series), this illusion of texture is created without the shimmering color. The artist’s narrative is articulated in complex combinations of sharply delineated forms swathed in soft-focus consistencies: clouds or chiffon, running water, sand and silk. Wayne’s prints seem to embroider shadow, substance and light itself with a dazzling array of black, gray and cream.
Given the high-minded nature of the subject material in tandem with the technical accomplishment of the previous series, Wayne’s creation of theTamarind Lithography Workshopin 1960 seems a perfect compliment to the artist’s passion for print as a fine art medium. Armed with a sizable grant from the Ford Foundation– no small feat in any decade!– Wayne and her Tamarind Workshop became the go-to professional training/producing ground for painters and sculptors as well as printers. Richard Diebenkorn, Josef and Anni Albers, Louise Nevelson, Philip Guston and Ynez Johnston were among the multitude of participants. The workshop continues today as the Tamarind Institute at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
Though the program has been somewhat altered to address the demands of 21st Century art-production, the mission of the institution continues to be very much of June Wayne’s making. Under her leadership, because of her leadership, the Workshop effectively transformed the quality as well as the ambitions related to printmaking in the United States.
The artist once explained that as a ‘nearsighted kid’ she studied the funny pages up close and was astonished to discern each line, each image as a multitude of dots. The idea of building a larger picture by a delicate arrangement of smaller complete units found a perfect expression in her work as a printer. Her on-going investigation of image, narrative and identity was ever a supreme act of deductive reasoning, a revelation of de-construction.
Perhaps, Wayne’s free-ranging creative practice owes more to the current century than the past. Perhaps her willingness to use any means or any medium necessary is part of what keeps the work fresh. Perhaps her tireless exploration of self combined with her determination to pay her own way on her own terms seems completely now. Personal histories aside, image by image and year after productive year, the artist’s work earns the viewer’s interest and respect in equal measure. But more remarkably, as depicted by work in this retrospective, she feels like one of us.
The influence ofJune Wayne extends beyond the walls of the Tamarind Lithography Workshop. Like a stone that ripples water in a pond, her work and legacy continue to influence the practice of Lithography and have impacted the lives of Installation founders A. Moret and Garet Field-Sells. In many ways she is an artist that has brought the two of us closer together. Our stories are like the opening and closing chapters in a book. In 2009 A. had the chance to interview June Wayne at her home on Tamarind Avenue and shortly after the interview, Garet acquired 10th Wave. One of us has met the artist, while the other lives with one of her most iconic works.
An Afternoon with June
By A. Moret
It was late morning on a weekday someday in October of 2009. A thin layer of haze and smog stuck to the windshield prompting the automatic wipers to go off every few minutes. Back then I was working for the Los Angeles Times Magazine and despite my junior position as an editorial assistant, my editor appreciated the arts and supported my freelance ambitions enough to allow me to report late to the office that day. Sarah Williams and Bettina Korek of For Your Art had approached me about interviewing Los Angeles lithography icon and trailblazer June Wayne. Opportunities like this rarely present themselves but when they do, you have no choice but to take it.
I arrived at Tamarind Avenue and approached a modest house that sat across from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. If only those walls could talk. The stories they would tell about the resident artists selected to participate in the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in the 1960s. A woman in a white uniform opened the door, and it took me a moment to notice her as I stood at the threshold awestruck. I managed to muster the courage to ask if June was home. I was lead down a hallway and sat on a tan leather couch. June Wayne was waiting for me, dressed in black wearing bold black plastic glasses which were greatly defined by her white short hair. A black jeweled magnifying glass hung around her neck and a lucite cane was at her side. She greeted me with a warm smile and a twinkle in her eye like we were old friends.
We talked for well over two hours. I have nearly 18 pages of transcription to prove it. While our interview began with a specific focus on her series Cognitos,1984 that was on view at Khastoo Gallery, I soon became less interested in formality and wanted to soak up every word that she was willing to share. June talked about the early days before the Tamarind Workshop was founded and funded. She was frustrated with the politics of gender and the bureaucracy of exhibitions. She couldn’t understand why better resources for printing weren’t available in the United States. She had planned on visiting Paris indefinitely but Mac Lowry of the Ford Foundation tracked her down en route and helped make Tamarind a reality.
At 91 years old, June Wayne possessed an incredible power. Her commitment and dedication to the arts were palpable. She single handedly revitalized printmaking in this country, training generations of artists to continue her tradition. When she told a story it was easy to get lost in the rhythm and fluidity of her words. I saw myself from the perspective of a fly on a wall, thinking that I would look back on that day in the dimly lit house on Tamarind Avenue and smile with gratitude. How true that is now. As the afternoon crept upon us, June told me that she wanted to take me out for lunch but apologized that she was simply too tired. Another time. Before I left she said, “I’m depending on you. I want you to change the world.”
June, wherever you are, I hope that I’m not letting you down.