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A protégé of Wayne Thiebaud, Clay Vorhes began painting professionally his mid-30s. Drawn to Theibaud’s interest in mass culture, nostalgia, and illusion, Vorhes continues to work with these concerns today.
His current series of circus performers reveals Vorhes’s nostalgia for the bygone area of big-top circus and his interest in challenging viewers’s perceptions of pictorial space. Employing the subject of trapeze, Vorhes creates a vibrant atmosphere, deploying the thrills of the circus in a sophisticated subversion of the eye and mind. Large swathes of color are interrupted by strong diagonals lyrically dotted with the trapeze performers, bringing both geometric precision and optical fantasy to these playful scenes.
“When seen from afar, these arresting images seem like non-objective compositions. The network of lines that thrust across each canvas harks back to the taunt, haunting geometries of Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series. As one moves closer, however, it soon becomes clear that these paintings are populated by small figures that hang, leap and suspend precariously from the linear frame. … In visual terms, these figures provide accents that offer relief from the stark scaffold of lines. They punctuate the compositions, creating a cadence of organic points and counter-points,” states Michael Zakian, Director, Fredrick Weisman Museum of Art.
Vorhes has exhibited extensively since 2002 with shows at museums and galleries throughout the West Coast.