Richard Diebenkorn Exhibitions

Contemporary Bay Area Figurative Painting

Contemporary Bay Area Figurative Painting

  • Oakland Art Museum, Calif., 8 September 1957 - 29 September 1957
  • Los Angeles County Museum, Exposition Park, Los Angeles, 13 November 1957 - 22 December 1957
  • Dayton Art Institute, Ohio, 7 January 1958 - 9 February 1958
  • Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colo., 1 March 1958 - 1 March 1958
Organized by the Oakland Museum of California

Curated by Paul Mills

"8–29 SEPTEMBER: Represented in Contemporary Bay Area Figurative Painting at the Oakland Art Museum, an exhibition curated by Paul Mills. The show also features Elmer Bischoff, Joseph Brooks, William T. Brown, Robert Downs, Bruce McGaw, David Park, Robert Qualters, Walter Snelgrove, Henry Villierme, James Weeks, and Paul Wonner. The show is the first to decisively present the figurative painters in the Bay Area as a group. Mills quotes Diebenkorn in the catalogue: 'The initial oil studies now are like the paintings then [as a student at Stanford]. At that time I didn’t know how to go beyond....[Now] I keep plastering it until it comes around to what I want, in terms of all I know and think about painting now, as well as in terms of the initial observation. One wants to see the artifice of the thing as well as the subject. Reality has to be digested, it has to be transmuted by paint. It has to be given a twist of some kind.'

"[Diebenkorn] is uncomfortable with the show from the beginning, as Mills initially proposes an exhibition that groups the men and their works together in a manner that resembles a 'School.' Diebenkorn recalls: 'We didn’t know we were forming a school. Not until Paul Mills came around and told us we were a movement—the California Figurative Painters! Well, I just hated this thing of getting people together and forming a school. I remember feeling wildly threatened by that. We had a meeting at David’s house—there was Elmer Bischoff, Paul Mills, and myself—and I remember raising my voice and saying 'This should not happen.' Well, David was for it because he was going to be the granddaddy of it all. Elmer was sort of on the fence. But I hated being labeled....I didn’t go for that at all.'" —Chronology from Richard Diebenkorn: The Catalogue Raisonné, Vol. 1 (Yale University Press, 2016)
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