Crocker Art Mu­seum

A trav­el­ing ex­hibit pre­mier­ing at the Crocker Art Mu­seum ex­plores Diebenkorn’s early years

American Fine Art Magazine - - My View -

A trav­el­ing ex­hibit pre­mier­ing at the Crocker Art Mu­seum ex­plores Diebenkorn’s early years

Through Jan­uary 7

In 1936, when he was 14, Richard Diebenkorn’s grand­mother, Florence Stephens, took him to the Cal­i­for­nia Palace of the Le­gion of Honor to see a trav­el­ing ret­ro­spec­tive ex­hi­bi­tion of the work ofvin­cent van Gogh. Twelve years later, he would have his first one man show at the Le­gion of Honor.

His grand­mother was sup­port­ive of his tal­ent, giv­ing him art books as well as a set of 88 post­cards de­pict­ing the en­tire 230-foot­long Bayeux Ta­pes­try cre­ated in the 1070s and de­pict­ing the events lead­ing up to the Nor­man Conquest in 1066. Diebenkorn (1922-1993) was fas­ci­nated by the hor­i­zon­tal bands of its com­po­si­tion, a de­vice that would show up in his works re­peat­edly over the years.

When An­drea Liguori, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the Richard Diebenkorn Foun­da­tion, was com­plet­ing the Diebenkorn cat­a­logue raisonné, she talked with Scott Shields, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor and chief cu­ra­tor at the Crocker Art Mu­seum in Sacra­mento, Cal­i­for­nia, about putting to­gether a Diebenkorn ex­hi­bi­tion. Shields be­came fas­ci­nated by the artist’s early work, be­fore the bet­ter known

fig­u­ra­tive work from the mid-’50s and his later ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ist work. “Though his evo­lu­tion was rapid, he did not sud­denly ar­rive on the scene as an Ab­stract Ex­pres­sion­ist prodigy,” Shields says.“he in­ves­ti­gated many styles and ideas to get there.”

Ligouri notes,“the va­ri­ety in the artist’s out­put, and its re­sponse to the forces that in­flu­enced him in his art mak­ing, in­vited a much closer look.we hadn’t yet seen a mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tion of Diebenkorn’s work pre­ced­ing 1950, and with the cat­a­logue raisonné pro­vid­ing the pub­lic with the first com­plete look at the early pro­duc­tions, Scott in­stantly rec­og­nized its im­por­tance and was ea­ger to ex­plore it more deeply.”

The artist’s many styles and ideas are pre­sented in the ex­hi­bi­tion Richard Diebenkorn: Be­gin­nings, 1942–1955 at the Crocker through Jan­uary 7.

The mu­seum ex­plains,“fo­cused ex­clu­sively on paint­ings and draw­ings made be­tween 1942 and 1955, Be­gin­nings fea­tures 100 works from the col­lec­tion of the Richard Diebenkorn Foun­da­tion, most of which have never be­fore been pub­licly ex­hib­ited.these lit­tle-known works range from World War II draw­ings and wa­ter­col­ors of sol­diers and mil­i­tary bases, to ab­strac­tions that unite the forms of Sur­re­al­ism and the frac­tured planes of Cu­bism, to ges­tu­ral works on pa­per.the show con­cludes with one of the artist’s first ma­ture fig­u­ra­tive paint­ings, his 1954 Un­ti­tled (Horse and Rider), lay­ing the foun­da­tion for

the representational draw­ings and paint­ings soon to come (1955–1966).”

Un­ti­tled (Horse and Rider) harkens back to the horse­men he saw in the post­cards of the Bayeux Ta­pes­try and its three hor­i­zon­tal com­po­si­tional bands.

In 1946, Diebenkorn en­rolled at the Cal­i­for­nia School of Fine Arts (CSFA) in San Fran­cisco on the GI Bill and worked with artists in­clud­ing Elmer Bischoff, Ed Corbett, Frank Lob­dell, David Park and Has­sel Smith. He re­ceived a grant to study in Newyork and when he re­turned to CSFA (now the Santa Fe Art In­sti­tute), he be­came an in­struc­tor. In 1947, Clyf­ford Still joined the fac­ulty and Mark Rothko was a vis­it­ing lec­turer.

Shields notes,“diebenkorn learned from Clyf­ford Still that paint­ing must not be pretty and from David Park that it should not be easy to make. Diebenkorn came to rel­ish the search and strug­gle, mak­ing them crit­i­cal com­po­nents of his art and bat­tling against his in­nate pre­dis­po­si­tion to­ward the re­fined, gra­cious and el­e­gant, cre­at­ing a ten­sion he ex­ploited to max­i­mum ad­van­tage.”

Af­ter the Crocker, Be­gin­nings will travel to the Owsley Mu­seum at Ball State Uni­ver­sity in Mun­cie, In­di­ana, and the Port­land Art Mu­seum, Port­land, Ore­gon. In 2019, the ex­hi­bi­tion will be on view at the Fred­er­ick R.weis­man Mu­seum of Art; Pep­per­dine Uni­ver­sity, Mal­ibu, Cal­i­for­nia; and Academy Art Mu­seum, Eas­ton, Mary­land.

Un­ti­tled (Ma­gi­cian’s Ta­ble), 1947. Gouache and graphite on hard­board, 141⁄8 x 14¾ in. Cat­a­logue raisonné no. 544 © Richard Diebenkorn Foun­da­tion.

Crocker Art Mu­seum • 216 O Street • Sacra­mento, CA 95814 t: (916) 808-7000 • www.crock­er­

Un­ti­tled, 1946. Oil on hard­board, 255⁄8 x 19 in. Cat­a­logue raisonné no. 498 © Richard Diebenkorn Foun­da­tion.

Left: Un­ti­tled (Horse and Rider), 1954. Oil on can­vas, 21 x 24 in. Cat­a­logue raisonné no. 1351 © Richard Diebenkorn Foun­da­tion. Be­low left: Un­ti­tled, 1945. Wa­ter­color on pa­per, 15 ¾ x 12 in. Cat­a­logue raisonné no. 348 © Richard Diebenkorn Foun­da­tion.

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