Wayne Thiebaud: Water City

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Hearne Pardee writes about a trip with Wayne Thiebaud to see Thiebaud's Water City (1959), a 250 foot long mosaic at the Sacramento Municipal Utilities Headquarters, Sacramento, CA.

Pardee notes: "Essentially a gouache sketch translated into the ancient, permanent medium of mosaic, 'Water City' pays tribute to Sacramento’s two rivers. It lends public scale to the artist’s early gestural style, full of youthful exuberance and a certain cartoon craziness… [In Water City] Thiebaud constantly varies the compositional components; motifs reappear, but in new configurations, over the 250-foot span. A lively suggestion of city life develops, as lines of colored tiles gently intermesh, while floating shapes of lavender and yellow suggest the lights of the buildings coming on at sunset. Red-orange tiles evoke the heat of Sacramento’s summer, and irregular rafts of pink or lavender offer fantasy shapes, glyphs that encourage us to envision mosques or Venetian gondolas. On the western wall, vertically aligned dots suggest antennas and the airborne transmission of electrons, the invisible energy that animates this flickering metropolis."

An exhibition of works by Wayne Thiebaud is also on view at Acquavella Galleries, New York (through November 21).

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