June Wayne (1918-2011) is best known for starting and running the Tamarind Lithography Workshop, a world-renowned institution that has been going strong for 53 years. She is also known as an innovative printmaker, her own lithographs outstanding examples of what the medium can deliver. As a painter, Wayne is not so well known.
At Louis Stern Fine Arts, an introductory survey goes a long way to change that. "June Wayne: Eloquent Visionary" displays paintings alongside prints to reveal that Wayne moved freely between the media, gleaning insights from each and enhancing our understanding of both.
Her seven oils on canvas (painted from 1948 to 1955) are not as consistently successful as her 18 works on paper (from 1949 to 1985). The good ones, including "Cryptic Creatures, Kafka Series" (1948) and "The Chase" (1949), are knockouts, their out-of-left-field nuttiness so bold, fearless and original that it seems reasonable.
The clunkers, like "The Advocate" (1952) and "Study for The Messenger" (1954), come off as flatfooted illustrations of cosmic flakiness. To their credit, they create a kinky link between Roberto Matta's sci-fi Surrealism and Summer of Love graphics.
Many of Wayne's prints anticipate the hippie sensibility that flourished in California in the '60s, including "The Advocate" (1952), "Tower of Babel A" (1955) and "The Travelers" (1954). Others, including "Lemmings Day" (1968), "Dusty Helix" (1970) and "Tidal Wave (1972), infuse their apocalyptic atmosphere with a well-meaning touch of Midwestern earnestness.
That odd combination of incompatible perspectives is what gives all of Wayne's works their kick, especially the best ones.
Louis Stern Fine Arts, 9002 Melrose Ave., (310) 276-0147, through July 27. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.louissternfinearts.com