Artist June Wayne (1918-2011) started to make tapestries in 1971, following a decade running her Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Hollywood and then overseeing its relocation to the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. The new medium was unusual.
Like lithography, which was disappearing before Tamarind launched a studio in 1960 to train master printers, tapestry recalled the waning art of an earlier era. It wasn't exactly an ancien regime – Picasso, Leger, Miro and others made them in the 1930s – but a mostly forgotten past.
"La Journee des Lemmings," more than 10 feet wide, is a sumptuously textured abstraction in intricately woven wool. Its fractured, black and white storm clouds visually coalesce into layers of geological strata, like an X-ray of underground sedimentary rock.
Across a dark, compressed band in the lower right quadrant, tiny naked figures swarm. Humanity's chaos evokes the social turmoil of the day – Vietnam horrors, the fallout of stalled Paris peace talks, the senseless bombing of Cambodia, the slaughter of students at Kent State and more.
"La Cible" reproduces "The Target," a 1951 lithograph that was her initial step away from painting. "At Last a Thousand," which was the 1,000th Tamarind print, merges cosmos and human hand into a galactic fingerprint.
Wayne wasn't much of a painter. Early Social Realist and Surrealist efforts are conventional. When she returned to painting in the 1980s and 1990s, her use of styrene packing "peanuts" as a textured surface for often dark or metallic paint seems an unsatisfactory effort to suggest (in abstract, exploded form) porous limestone or zinc printing plates from the lithography studio.
Overall, the survey is a bit disappointing. All but 15 of 79 works come from the artist's estate. (Partly that's simply because prints, the largest group with 55 examples, exist in editions.) And Tamarind's story is familiar.
For an art public, the reverse would be more useful. Her biography is a way to get to know her art.