White Cube Mason’s Yard; Victoria Miro Mayfair, London
The precise, joyous cakes and landscapes of Wayne Thiebaud, 96, are a quiet revelation in this rare UK show
It would be hard to think of an American painter more stinted over here than the Californian master Wayne Thiebaud, poet of the milkshake, ice-cream cone and cherried sundae, of the still life with pie and damn fine cup of coffee. Thiebaud, born in 1920, has been making these radiant paintings for almost seven decades. But in this century at least, Britain has never enjoyed a full-scale retrospective of his luscious Americana, and Tate Modern has no more than a couple of monochrome cakes. So White Cube’s present show is a vital and glorious opportunity.
It is a chance to see Thiebaud’s tiered wedding cakes, twin towers of luminous frosting rising into cool ambient air; and his quintet of cupcakes in their pleated cases, receding into midnight-blue darkness like a row of tiny pavilions. A lone pie slice turns your way, its point sharp as a bird’s beak; a roundel of cheese, one chunk removed, comes in 10 yellows, altered by the ever-changing light. Transfixed by the pristine transparency of the chiller cabinet, the artist paints the interior as a kind of crystalline paradise.