Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Diebenkorn's Untitled #25

Richard Diebenkorn. Untitled #25,1981. Gouache and crayon on two sheets of heavyweight glossy white paper. Gift of The Pokross Art Collection, donated in accordance with the wishes of Muriel Kohn Pokross, class of 1934 by her children, Joan Pokross Curhan, class of 1959, William R. Pokross and David R. Pokross Jr. in loving memory of their parents, Muriel Kohn Pokross, class of 1934 and David R. Pokross. SC 2012:1-6

Richard Diebenkorn grew up in San Francisco and attended Stanford University and the California School of Fine Arts, where he studied with the artist David Park. Together, Diebenkorn and Park were two founders of the Bay Area Figurative School, choosing figuration over abstraction, the prevailing style of the time. Unlike Park, however, Diebenkorn embraced abstraction in the mid-60s, when he embarked on the series of works for which he is best known: more than 140 monumental paintings that he titled Ocean Parkafter the Santa Monica neighborhood where his studio was located. With their linear planes and luminous, broadly-brushed glazes, the Ocean Parkpaintings dispensed of figures but resembled landscapes.

Untitled #25comes from a series of drawings Diebenkorn executed during a hiatus in the Ocean Parkseries. Made in 1981 and 1982, they are based on playing card figures such as clubs and spades, shapes that had fascinated Diebenkorn since childhood.

Diebenkorn embarked on the playing card drawings after his mother, Dorothy Diebenkorn, became severely ill during the early 1980s. Finding it difficult to maintain the intense concentration required for the Ocean Parkpaintings, he turned to the new medium as a temporary diversion. Ultimately, the project occupied a steady year and a half of work. Untitled #25was one of fifty sheets exhibited at the Knoedler Gallery in New York City in 1982.

Like the Ocean Parkpaintings, #25gives the sense of something seem outside a window, perhaps an abstracted landscape. The loops of the club could be abstract forms, but the recognizable shape also ties this drawing back to the representational sphere. In doing so, it links Diebenkorn’s early figurative work with his later abstract work.

Untitled #25is currently on view in Shared Inspiration: The Muriel K. and David R. Pokross Collectionuntil July 29. If you cannot make it before then and would like to see this or other works from our vast collection, the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs is open on weekdays by appointment. Call 413-585-2764 or e-mail ccenter@smith.eduto schedule a visit.


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