As founder and director of Tamarind Lithography Workshop, June Wayne has long been recognized as a major figure in American printmaking. Not only was she essential to the revival of lithography in America, she also enriched Los Angeles’ nascent art scene of the 1960s by luring renowned artists such as Louise Nevelson, Philip Guston and Josef Albers to make prints there. While her reputation as a grande dame of the litho press is firmly established, her achievements as an artist, which were the focus of a recent exhibition at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, have received much less attention.
Wayne, who passed away in 2011 at the age of 93, enjoyed a career that spanned 75 years and a wide range of artistic movements and influences, from Social Realism to Surrealism, and from her own family history to astronomy. The exhibition begins with her earliest extant painting, Untitled (Mexican Woman Wearing Rebozo) (1936), a rough-hewn portrait executed with earthy palette-knife slashes that conveys Wayne’s sympathy—born of the Great Depression—for the poor. Such early works establish the artist’s social conscience, and their all-over, agitated surfaces foreshadow her later preoccupation with abstract textures and patterns.