Caesura Magazine: Richard Diebenkorn: “Works on Paper” at L.A. Louver

May 9, 2024
By Patrick Zapien

“Were one asked to characterize the life of religion in the broadest and most general terms possible, one might say that it consists of the belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto.”

— William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Lecture III

Ken Collins’s portrait of Richard Diebenkorn, used to promote the recent L.A. Louver show of his works on paper, is peculiar in its emphasis on the distance between the camera and its subject. The artist, placed in the far corner of a room in his Ocean Park studio, is dwarfed by walls of brick, plaster, and wood. Illuminated by a sliver of natural light coming from a large opening in the cinderblock wall, Diebenkorn’s eyes are obscured by shadows. His legs are crossed in a further distancing gesture, although one arm rests easy on the back of a folding chair, almost touching the white wall on which the artist’s double is cast. There are no easels, brushes, or canvases in view. The only indication of the sitter’s vocation is the inscrutable gaze that serves as the vanishing point of the picture — the intersection at which the planes composing the room converge to form the illusion of space. Rather than showing a staged vision of the artist at work, the portrait offers an image of Diebenkorn’s vision itself, approximating his aesthetic sensibility and formal concerns through the careful composition and considered omissions that structure the photo. Like Diebenkorn himself, the photo attempts to give the outline of something ethereal: the meaning that accrues between people and things — which, after all, is their true essence for us.

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