Richard Diebenkorn, Man and Woman in a Large Room, 1957, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, Gift of the Joseph H. Hirshhorn Foundation, 1966.
Not that I have a particular favorite among the Bay Area Figurative Artists, but I do think the vast range of works by Richard Diebenkorn are worth discussing. Diebenkorn, like many artists of the time, went back and forth between subjects, from figure painting in the mid 1950s to abstraction paintings of landscapes in 1967. Throughout his career, Diebenkorn always stayed true to his belief of rendering representational forms and traditional values like beauty, harmony and order. Diebenkorn often cited Henri Matisse as inspiration, mimicking his lush color, use of pattern, window panes, and interest in the contrast of indoor with outdoor light.
In his figurative works, Diebenkorn liked to paint figures in an austere setting, with defined geometric shapes and flat compositions. Similar in style to Bay Area Artists, Elmer Bischoff and David Park, Diebenkorn carried on this new approach to figurative painting. Then, Diebenkorn switched his focus to landscapes, where the same elements of design were utilized but expanded. He painted in flat plains of color, drawing interest in horizontal-vertical grids, architecture and nature.
“I want a painting to be difficult to do. The more obstacles, obstructions, problems, the better” ~ Richard Diebenkorn
Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park #111, 1978, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, Museum purchase, 1979.
Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park, No. 6, 1968, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Arthur J. Levin in memory of his beloved wife Edith.
Diebenkorn dedicated much of his career to painting these abstract expressionist landscapes. After he moved to Ocean Park, Southern California in 1966, he began his large series, “Ocean Park”. This series spanned two decades of the artist’s life, and included 145 paintings and 500 works on paper. “Ocean Park” illustrates the connection between place and painting, but for Diebenkorn it was more about discovering a new geometry and palette in his work, thus giving the faintest real- world references.
I hope you have the chance to see at least one of Diebenkorn’s paintings. When viewed up close, you can make out the activity of the brush, translucency and texture of the paint. You really gain a sense of Diebenkorn’s energy and passion for painting. Here are some Museums to look into:
For those of you that may have the opportunity to venture to the west coast, the Orange County Museum of Art currently presents, Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series (through May 27, 2012). The show features approx. 80 works, consisting of paintings, prints, drawings, and collages. Good news! The traveling exhibit will make its way to The Corcoran Gallery of Art , here in DC on June 30- Sept 23, 2012. Mark it on your calendars!
You can also visit the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden to see some of Diebenkorn’s works in the museums’ permanent collection. Explore the collections online:
"My childhood has never lost its magic, it has never lost its mystery, and it has never lost its drama. All my work in the past 50 years, all my subjects, have found their inspiration in my childhood."
The Bay Area Artists sprung up during a time when the art scene in New York City was on the rise and the Abstract Expressionist style was being embraced by many recognizable painters such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. These San Francisco based artists separated themselves apart from the east coast by joining forces and manipulating the idea of Abstract Expressionism with shallow pictorial space, candid brushwork, and a different figurative style.
Leader of the pack, David Park, christened the Bay Area Figurative Art movement in a 1951 exhibit with his painting, "Kids on Bikes", which was awarded a prize and admired for it’s exaggerated texture and success in capturing the child’s apathetic expression. Later in his career, Park was recognized for his portraits of anonymous figures, as seen above in his painting, Woman with Red Mouth. Following in Parks footsteps was Elmer Bischoff, the next artist to place great emphasis on gestural brushstrokes and contrasts of dark and light in his rendering of the figure. Bischoff commented on his work, that he “wanted to create a world and to create people in that world who are more timeless”.
As you may have already detected, I am a huge fan of the Bay Area artists, specifically of Bischoff’s work.His paintings are vividly expressive with a dominating cool vs. warm color palette and thick clusters of brushstrokes. Bischoff, like the other artists of this movement wanted to keep landscapes and figures referential but distinctly expressive and unproven with the suggestion of movement, color and space.
Tune in next time, for another Bay Area Art blog on the rendering of landscapes.
Feeling inspired? Let us know by leaving your comments!
"The life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of a nation, is very close to the center of a nation's purpose...and is a test of the quality of a nation's civilization."
~ J.F.K Statement prepared for Creative America, 1963
“People mistakenly think that art is about nature, or about an artist's feelings about nature. It is instead a path of enlightenment and pleasure, one of many paths, where nature and the artist's feelings are merely raw material.”~ Wolf Kahn
Wolf Kahn, Aura, 2005, Screenprint. The Smithsonian Associates Art Collectors Program.
Wolf Kahn, My Barn on a Summer Night, 1982. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, Gift of Mrs. Grace Borgenicht Brandt and Mrs. Margarete Schultz, 1987.
I have been attending a pastel class, here at The Smithsonian Associatesand one of the main influences has been the work of Wolf Kahn. I am entranced by the rich and expressive quality of his use of color. When I look at the pieces, Aura and My Barn on a Summer Night, or any of his works for that matter, I am awe-struck. I find that it is no easy task to capture the brilliant hues of color, like Kahn successfully does.
The celebrated colorist, Wolf Kahn, was born in Germany in 1927. Kahn came to the US in 1940, where he began his career and studies as an artist. Here, he studied and was an assistant under the abstract expressionist, Hans Hofmann . In Aura, and as seen in many of his other landscapes, Kahn captures the essence of nature in his sublime use of color. Kahn creates a horizontal distraction and tension of warm vs. cool colors in My Barn on a Summer Night. Kahn’s unique style has transpired into a fusion of expressive spontaneity that we see from colorists like, Henri Matisse, Mark Rothkoand from his mentor, Hans Hofmann. Kahn continues to produce works today and has regularly been featured at galleries and museums across the US. You are not far from the pieces featured in this article. Both works are displayed here in Washington, DC, at the Hirshhorn Museum and The S. Dillion Ripley Center.
Who Knows? Maybe, by the end of my pastel class I will have a colorful, Kahn inspired picture to feature here!