Sunday, March 11, 2012

June Wayne

June Wayne (b Chicago, 7 March 1918), painter, printmaker, tapestry designer, writer and lecturer. Wayne left school at 15 to become a painter, using her given names, June Claire, but her reputation was made after her marriage, when she became June Wayne. Her first exhibition of watercolors in in 1935 took place a quarter of a century before the birth of Pop art and won her an official invitation to Mexico. Pursuing a rich diversity of ideas, fashionable and unfashionable, she often anticipated aesthetic developments. For example, her spatial constructions of 1950—ink drawings on glass slotted into a framework—predated Rauschenberg's by 14 years, while the imagery of her lithograph Strange Moon —an expanded checkerboard traversed by floating discs—preceded Op art by a decade. Her lithographic illumination (1958) of John Donne's Songs and Sonets was among the first books in the French livre de peintre tradition to be published in the USA.

Hired by the Federal Art Project in 1938, Wayne painted mills, factories and the Chicago River. Her wartime training in production illustration sparked an interest in optics and perspective, which she explored after World War II as a Los Angeles modernist. In 1948 she fell in love with lithography as a primary means of expression, and her painted allegories of invented characters in situations inspired by Kafka were often derived from prints, rather than vice versa.

Wayne's international reputation depends not only on her work as an artist but also on the flair with which she helped to transform the ecology for artists' prints as founding director of the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles, which she ran from 1960 to 1970 with the financial backing of the Ford Foundation. During the Tamarind years Wayne often had to set her own work aside, as the delay in completing her magnificent self-portrait Wave 1920 attests. From 1970, however, she explored many new themes, and between 1971 and 1973 she realized 11 magisterial tapestries in France, using such powerful lithographs as At Last a Thousand, Verdict and Wave 1970 as cartoons.

In the late 1970s Wayne devised a figurative suite of 20 lithographs as an affectionate tribute to her mother, Dorothy; its importance as a feminist statement was recognized during its extensive American exhibition tour. But the drama of space travel had gripped her imagination, and in collaboration with Edward Hamilton, her personal printer, she began to imagine “the ineffably beautiful but hostile wilderness of astrophysical space,” harnessing sophisticated oxidation patterns on zinc to provide metaphors for its invisible forces. The exquisite minimalist striations of Dawn Wind, Silent Wind and Night Wind reveal her subtle mastery of monochrome, but she also conceived several radiant color portfolios, among them Stellar Winds (1979), Solar Flares (1983) and My Palomar (1984), in which a square, ambiguously alternating as detail or field, voyages through interstellar space. Wayne's later prints faced mortality in a skittish series that continued the theme of energy and matter and were inspired by James Ensor's skeletal self-portrait.

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