Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Richard Diebenkorn (1953)

Berkeley #3 by Richard Diebenkorn, 1953

I was fortunate to see a preview last week of the new Richard Diebenkorn exhibit being held now through September 29, 2013 at the de Young Museum here in San Francisco. The exhibit focuses on what they term his Berkeley Years, namely 1953 through 1966 when the Portland, Oregon born artist returned to the Bay Area (he had grown up in in San Francisco) when he moved his family from Albuquerque, New Mexico to 2837 Webster Street in Southeast Berkeley, California. It was a period during which he created a remarkable number of works, especially considering the amount of time he spent teaching during much of this era. Additionally, he had almost yearly gallery shows and Life magazine profiled him both in 1954 and 1957.

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.


John Gall said...

Nick - I have two young children and am broke. When shall I ever get to SF to tap into this stuff you write about? A great post, as ever. Thanks for your writing. John.

Jill Smith said...

Wow, I love his work. You're a great writer and always share interesting info and stories. Thanks!

Nick Rossi said...

Thank you both very much for you kind words and continued support. I really do appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

diebenkorn show was mind-blowing…even as a long time admirer, it was special…he moved effortlessly from pure abstract expressionism, thru landscapes(of a sort) to figurative ie posed models and the like..just a total command..great show, something akin to "goin to church"


Nick Rossi said...

I agree on all points. I ended up going 6 or 7 times!