Berkeley #3 by Richard Diebenkorn, 1953
Berkeley #22 by Richard Diebenkorn, 1954
What I found most remarkable about this show, in addition to the sheer volume of works collected and put on display, were his earlier paintings which represented his reaction to the New York school of abstract expressionism. Diebenkorn is most well known for his figurative work, a style he transitioned to during his years in Berkeley. But a solid third of what is on display could be termed abstract expressionist and most folks would not challenge such a claim.
Berkeley #44 by Richard Diebenkorn, 1955
Diebenkorn certainly was influenced by the 10th Street crowd for sure, particularly Rothko and de Kooning both of whom share a similar color palette with the younger West Coaster - and he had met and befriended Kline some time near the beginning of this period - but a strong argument has long been made by art critics that his greatest influence even at this stage were the landscapes that surrounded him be it in Albuquerque or Berkeley.
Richard Diebenkorn, c.1952
It is always exciting to see an artist in transition which is a big part of the appeal of what the de Young has put together. There are also other connections for me as well. When I first moved to San Francisco in the 1989, I spent a considerable amount of my first 3 years across the Bay in Berkeley and do feel that the colors of the area had to have some influence on his work. Diebenkorn was also a dyed-in-the-wool jazz fan, albeit of the traditional New Orleans variety that had begun experiencing a revival as the unfortunately named Dixieland, parallel to the ascension of modern jazz. Almost needless to say, I highly recommend a visit to the de Young if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area or plan to be some time in the coming months.