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Now that Orange County was assigned to the red tier under the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Blueprint for a Safer Economy. The less restrictive tier allows museums to re-open with modifications including limited capacity. Following guidance from CDPH, with protocols to protect the health of staff and visitors, Laguna Art Museum reopened today.

Advance tickets for timed entry, available on the museum’s website, are required as capacity is limited to 25 percent in the red tier. Other health and safety protocols include required face masks, contactless temperature checks, physical distancing reminders, and increased cleaning and sanitization. Guided tours are not offered at this time, and events and programs will continue online rather than in-person.
Wayne Thiebaud: Clowns, which was scheduled to close on April 4, will be extended through October 24, 2021. The exhibition is the first museum showing of the recent series first unveiled in December 2019.

Over the past seven years Wayne Thiebaud has made dozens of paintings, drawings, and etchings of clowns. Like much of his work, this latest series is in a sense autobiographical. During his boyhood in Long Beach he looked forward to the visits of a traveling Ringling Brothers circus and sometimes helped out behind the scenes in exchange for tickets. The costumes, faces, and antics of the clowns were the beginning of a lifelong fascination for him. The clown series is its culmination, in which the 100-year-old artist revisits those early memories.

The series is a testament to the kinship between clowning and its counterpart for the visual artist, the cartoon. Early in his career Thiebaud worked as an animator and a cartoonist. He has great respect for comic draftsmanship and an appreciation for humor. At the same time he is one of the greatest pure painters of our time; on top of the fun of the clowns and the logic-defying situations he invents for them, there is the sheer delight he shows in color and brushwork.

In December 2019 Thiebaud unveiled a selection from his clown series at the San Francisco gallery founded by his son, Paul Thiebaud. The Laguna Art Museum exhibition is a version of the Paul Thiebaud Gallery exhibition, with 46 works.

Given the importance of memories in Thiebaud’s work, it seems fitting that his clown series, a tribute to performers remembered from his boyhood, should have its museum debut in a town for which he feels a nostalgic fondness. He came to Laguna Beach on visits with his family as a child and later, after his son opened a gallery here, stayed for extended periods in an apartment overlooking Main Beach. Laguna Art Museum staged exhibitions of his work in 2007 and 2014, and in 2018 he presented his painting Jolly Cones, a version of one of his many New Yorker covers, to the museum’s permanent collection.

Wayne Thiebaud: Clowns opened at Laguna Art Museum on December 6, 2020, and will be on view through October 24, 2021. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalog containing an interview with the artist. 

307 Cliff Drive in Laguna Beach. 949.494.8971.

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