Published in Part in The Fullerton Observer, March 2012
Review of Richard Diebenkorn Exhibit at Orange County Museum of Art
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Richard Diebenkorn captured sparkling Pacific sunlight and soft ocean breezes in his celebrated Ocean Park series that is currently on display at the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach, California. In 1967 Diebenkorn found a home for his unconventional artistic eye in a studio on Main Street in Santa Monica. For two decades, he filled six-foot vertical canvases with geometric panes of cobalt, canary and viridian. OCMA’s curator Sarah C. Bancroft has assembled the most extensive exhibit of Diebenkorn’s 1967-l988 Abstract Expressionist Ocean Park series to date.
Taupe underpainting and charcoal markings peek through the color-field paintings like the sand beneath the shore. In the ‘80s Diebenkorn moved away from expansive canvases and continued the Ocean Park series on a smaller scale using faster mediums such as printmaking, woodcut, lithograph and gouache. A fun surprise is a wall of cigar box tops with embossed logo images emerging from behind. These diminutive treasures were created as gifts to friends while he smoked through the inventory.
The large-scale art books featured in the exhibit look back at his early abstract work in the 1950s when he was in graduate school on the GI Bill at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. While in New Mexico the palette was somberly Southwestern. In Ocean Park the paintings are soaked in the upbeat hues of Southern California. Later in the ‘50s, and through the majority of the ‘60s, Diebenkorn became famous for figurative modern art that featured similar bold colors and a focus on geometric fields while highlighting more literal landscapes and the female form. Ocean Park is his return to Abstract Expressionism in a bold, breathtaking and eloquent fashion.
In the film accompanying the exhibit Diebenkorn claims the Santa Monica shore possesses the “best light in the word.” The film was produced by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and TVTV to accompany a traveling 1976-1977 show proves that Diebenkorn’s talent was surely celebrated during the heyday of the Ocean Park series. The mid-70s exhibit traveled to Buffalo, Cincinnati, Washington D.C., and Manhattan before settling at LACMA and ultimately moving on to Oakland, CA.
Richard Diebenkorn, The Ocean Park Series will be at the Orange County Museum of Art until May 27, 2012. The collection moves to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC from June 30 through September 23, 2012.