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The Star Democrat: Museum to offer only East Coast Diebenkorn exhibit

Easton, MD

Richard Diebenkorn, Untitled (Magician’s Table), 1947, gouache and graphite on hardboard, 14 1/8 x 14 3/4 in. (35.9 x 37.5 cm) © Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

Audiences today generally know the career of Richard Diebenkorn (1922–1993) in three periods: the Sausalito, Albuquerque, Urbana and “early Berkeley” periods of Abstract Expressionism; the Berkeley figurative/representational period; and the famous Ocean Park and Healdsburg series of abstractions.

Yet Diebenkorn’s earliest work remains little known. The exhibit “Richard Diebenkorn: Beginnings, 1942–1955” will be on view at the Academy Art Museum from April 26 to July 10 — the only venue on the East Coast. A reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Friday, April 26, is free, and the public is invited to attend.

The exhibit and its accompanying catalogue aim to present a comprehensive view of Diebenkorn’s evolution, focusing solely on the paintings and drawings that precede his 1955 shift to figuration at age 33. The exhibit includes 100 paintings and drawings from the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, offering a full picture of the young artist’s achievements.

Many of the elements that came to define Diebenkorn’s mature work are present in his earliest paintings and drawings, which evolved rapidly from representational landscape scenes and portraits of military colleagues, to semi-abstract and Surrealist-inspired depictions of topography and the human form, to mature Abstract Expressionist paintings that he made while living in California, New Mexico and Illinois.

The exhibit reveals the forces that shaped Diebenkorn as a young artist, including his teachers and mentors, most notably painter David Park, whose artistic and paternal guidance lasted until Park’s early death in 1960. It also evidences the influence of artists he admired, including Arshile Gorky, Joan Miró and Willem de Kooning, as well as the writings of art critic Clement Greenberg.

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