It’s always exciting to discover a “new” artist – not new as in the sense of young and undiscovered, just in terms of an artist that you haven’t yet gotten to know or appreciate. If I had a proper, formal art education there would be nothing new about the artist in this story but I didn’t, so let me take you on my voyage of discovery.
In July of 2010 I visited San Francisco for the first time. Among the many sites on my list to see was the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). I previously shared some photos and impressions of the museum itself in this blog entry so I will jump straight to my discovery:
Cityscape I took my breath away. It made a connection with me before I even knew whose work I was looking at. I had to read the title to know it was Richard Diebenkorn, a name I’d heard of but knew nothing about, other than his association with the 20th Century American Abstract Expressionist movement. In this work I liked the way Diebenkorn has taken an obvious landscape subject and flattened the space to abstract the scene
Fortunately with Diebenkorn having lived in the San Francicso area, the SFMOMA has a bit of a collection of his work and there were at least a couple I was able to see on my visit. This was another one that had me nodding by head, “Yes, I really, really like this!” :
There is so much I like about this painting. I like how it combines a figure with a landscape. I like the full value range and the demonstration that a lot of detail is not necessary.
After this initial exposure to Diebenkorn’s work I had to know more and see more. When I got home I quickly searched for books of his work and life and ordered The Life of Richard Diebenkorn by Jane Livingston
This was a very good book. It gave me a biography of the artist and a good selection of images of his works. It is a book I read through and have gone back to browse in a number of times since.
The paintings of Diebenkorn appeal to me and teach me a number of things. As previously mentioned, the fact that his subject matter covers the spectrum from landscapes and figures, to highly abstracted non-representational is something I find gives me license, or confidence to similarly explore a range of subjects.
I also made some discoveries through viewing, reading-about and contemplating Diebenkorn’s work. My eyes were opened to how the landscape can be abstracted by flattening of space (providing an aerial perspective). Diebenkorn demonstrates the value of leaving marks of the painting process to give a richness to the work. I also became aware of how he uses inside and outside scenes in a single painting – I love that! These are all things that I fully intend to explore and test in my own work and I am excited about that.
I may have been late to the show but having now discovered Richard Diebenkorn, I look forward to what more I can learn and I certainly won’t hesitate to recommend others to fully discover this inspirational artist.