#Diebenkorn100: Coast to coast installations, reflections, and more

October 20, 2022
Berkeley, CA

Time’s going by | Notes on Richard Diebenkorn, A special #Diebenkorn100 essay by Charity Coleman

#Diebenkorn100 is a year-long, coast to coast celebration of the distinguished artist’s life and art and brings his beautiful, mysterious body of work to everyone’s front door and screen. We are delighted to announce that more than twenty-five museums, colleges, and universities have joined the centennial—from a wall commanding Ocean Park abstraction on view this summer at the Museum of Modern Art, to a striking, chalky 1970 canvas from the same series on view at the newly reopened, 53,000 square foot Orange County Museum of Art—hanging paintings and works on paper made by the artist, sharing new and insightful commentary on the artist, posting in social media with the celebratory hashtag #Diebenkorn100, and participating in very special moments online.

At the conclusion of this summer, nearly three dozen drawings and paintings by the artist were on view across the U.S., and we have heard from thousands of aficionados and enthusiasts who are seeing Richard Diebenkorn on view in their local museums and sharing sightings and reflections in social media with #Diebenkorn100.

It’s been rewarding to see such active and warm moments of engagement with the artist’s art and life in honor of what would have been his 100th birthday. His legacy continues to serve a vital source of inspiration for the next generations, which is made possible by installations of his work across the country and the contributions of contemporary visual critics. We’re thrilled to reach an even wider audience with the sparked conversations and new scholarship both in person and online,” said Katharine James, Head of Digital and Public Engagement at the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation.


A special conversation on the first day of summer
The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation kicked off #Diebenkorn100 on the first day of summer at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California. The Southern California museum organized the artist’s first mid-career retrospective in 1960, Richard Diebenkorn, curated by Thomas W. Leavitt“powerful shock value with contrasting colors and stark compositions” enthused The Los Angeles Timesand today preserves work by the artist in its expansive holdings of postwar American art. A very special Instagram Live took place simultaneously on @DiebenkornFoundation and @NortonSimon between Emily Talbot, the Chief Curator of the Norton Simon, and a specialist in 19th-and-20th-century European art, and Katharine James, the Head of Digital and Public Engagement at the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, and the voice behind the popular @DiebenkornFoundation, which recently exceeded 55,000 followers.

Emily Talbot, Chief Curator of the Norton Simon Museum, and Katharine James, Head of Digital and Public Engagement at the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, in the outdoor sculpture garden at the museum, Pasadena, Calif., June 2022

The two gathered in the Museum’s emerald green sculpture garden, which contains a lush pond with several varieties of water lilies and colorful shrubs and flowers, on the occasion of Alternate Realities: Altoon, Diebenkorn, Lobdell, Woelffer, organized by Talbot, focused on the four groundbreaking painters who were active in Los Angeles or the Bay Area in the 1950s and 1960s and who deployed figuration in an abstract vocabulary. Their lively and rich exchange ranged from the artist’s enthusiastic response to the 1960 retrospective, to works on view in the spring and summer show, such as the Berkeley #24 (1954), to the “buttery stroke” of Bottles (1960), to an unbound sketchbook of Abstract Expressionist compositions on display in vertical, airy vitrines that show both sides of the pages, to the artist’s love of drawing. Talbot mused on figuration and abstraction in Diebenkorn’s practice, asserting that “the forms of the table and this very gestural brushwork that Diebenkorn uses in Bottles are absolutely the same techniques” in Berkeley #24. She added that in the 1950s abstraction one is able to observe an “inverse of the Bottles composition in terms of the tripartite compositional structure that we see so often in Diebenkorn’s work of the period, and that interesting relationship between slightly tighter more geometric forms and vigorous brushwork, where he is just clearly loving the process of painting.” The museum also shared a video walkthrough of the exhibition on its platforms earlier this year.


Surprise coast to coast installations and tender reflections
In the Northeast and Southeast, participating institutions include the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Morgan Library & Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Norton Museum of Art, the Orlando Museum of Art, the Phillips Collection, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Yale University Art Gallery.

At the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, visitors were treated to a special #Diebenkorn100 installation of the more than eight-foot-tall vertical Ocean Park #115 (1979) outside the museum’s fourth floor collection galleries. The banded, graceful oil was made the same year that the artist traveled to New York City to accept the Skowhegan Medal for Painting from the Skowhegan School of Painting in Maine and was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The following year, 1980, he would begin his Clubs and Spades series of works on paper, breaking temporarily from the epic Ocean Park cycle.

Richard Diebenkorn, Untitled, 1974, gouache, acrylic, and graphite on paper, 28 7/8 x 21 1/8 in. (73.3 x 53.7 cm), The Morgan Library and Museum, Thaw Collection © Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

At the Morgan Library & Museum, also in Manhattan, Rachel Federman, the Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Drawings, mused @TheMorganLibrary on a 1974 Ocean Park watercolor, acrylic, and graphite sheet of geometric, overlapping planes held in its Thaw Collection. “Following his 1966 move from Berkeley to Santa Monica, he transmuted the rigid geometries that define the spaces of his figurative paintings into abstract compositions that suggest the light and atmosphere of Southern California, and specifically the Ocean Park neighborhood where he had his studio,” she commented. “This drawing, with its extensive pentimenti—traces of earlier states and alterations—and hazy passages of bluish gouache, is resolutely abstract, but hints at the view through the casement windows that lined his second-floor studio.” Federman last wrote about the artist on the occasion of Richard Diebenkorn: Works on paper, 1955-1967 (2018) at Van Doren Waxter, commented at the time on his use of ballpoint pen and his fingerprints in sheets as “form-giving, embedding the artist in his work.” And as a novel installation on the occasion of #Diebenkorn100, Van Doren Waxter’s exhibition at the upcoming edition of the ADAA’s The Art Show in New York will invite viewers to enjoy a crossover of images and ideas vis-à-vis side by side comparisons of unique works and prints made by the aritst—as he often worked out compositions that closely relate to one another in composition, palette and imagery.

The Buffalo AKG Art Museum (formerly the Albright-Knox Art Gallery)—a collection especially rich in postwar American and European art and the sixth oldest public art institution in the United States—marked the 100th birthday of the American artist with a special post. @BuffaloAKGArtMuseum staff remarked of the commanding 1973 oil and charcoal Ocean Park #66 that “it would be a mistake to interpret a work like Ocean Park #66 as only an abstract landscape. Rather, the composition responds to formal and aesthetic concerns and his receptiveness to the environment.”

And nearby in Washington, D.C., where the structured, balanced, and spatial Interior with View of the Ocean (1957) has been on display at the Phillips Collection as part of the museum’s own #Phillips100 centennial against a striking red wall. Elsa Smithgall, the Chief Curator, commissioned a special wall label with the celebratory #Diebenkorn100 hashtag. In the 1940s, a young Richard Diebenkorn visited the museum with his wife, Phyllis, when he was stationed at Quantico. Enthralled, he learned from paintings such as Matisse’s The Studio, quai Saint-Michel (1917), which the artist admired for its flat color and spatial tension, and Pierre Bonnard’s The Open Window (1921). In 1961, the artist was himself the subject of the exhibition Richard Diebenkorn at the Phillips, and again in the traveling exhibition The Drawings of Richard Diebenkorn (1988), organized by John Elderfield at the Museum of Modern Art.

In the Midwest, participating institutions include the Art Institute of Chicago, the Des Moines Art Center, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. And at the Art Institute of Chicago, the staff posted @ArtInstituteChi the bright, radiant, banded Ocean Park #45 (1971).

From the inception of #Diebenkorn100 in the San Francisco Bay Area, every major institution has had work on view in their galleries and is participating online, including the Anderson Collection at Stanford University, the Cantor Arts Center, the Crocker Art Museum, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Oakland Museum of California, the San Francisco Art Institute, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the San José Museum of Art, and the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. 

Richard Diebenkorn, Seated Nude, Arm on Knee, 1962, oil on canvas, 51 1/4 x 45 3/4 in. (130.2 x 116.2 cm), Oakland Museum of California, Gift of the Estate of Howard E. Johnson © Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

This spring, the Oakland Museum of California participated in #Diebenkorn100 by drawing attention to its holdings of the artist on display in its Gallery of California Art—from the sensuous Seated Nude-Arm on Knee (1962); to the rich, layered Figure on a Porch (1959); to the psychologically complex Woman with Chin in Hand (1958)—with an unexpectedly tender and humorous reminisce. In a heartfelt, funny reel @OaklandMuseumCA, Carin Adams, Curator of Art, seated below a poster reproduction of the artist’s Untitled, 1975 hanging in her office, shared with the museum’s followers that as a young person growing up in Northern California, “Diebenkorn really defined the way that California light and land occupied my brain.” She added, laughing, “you know as a high school student in the mid 80s, [I] had this poster in my room.” It “didn’t occur to me until I had been in my role for quite a while…I saw this poster and was like… oh my god.” A very special collab post @OaklandMuseumCA and @DiebenkornFoundation is scheduled later this fall.

At the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where the iconic Cityscape #1 (1963) is on view and the 1955 oil on canvas Still Life with Orange Peel (1955) was specially displayed on the occasion of #Diebenkorn100, the institution recently installed the 1955 oil Berkeley #47, made the same year that he made the landscape Chabot Valley, which brought closure to his early abstract periods, according to Jane Livingston, the preeminent authority on the artist. A special #Diebenkorn100 collab post scheduled for Monday, November 21, @SFMOMA and @DiebenkornFoundation will take a deep dive into Berkeley #47. Earlier this year, Janet Bishop, Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture, wrote a special reflection on the museum’s Instagram in response to fresh research released this year on diebenkorn.org that looked at photographs of what appear to be direct studies for the artist’s major paintings, such as the beloved, iconic Cityscape #1.

And in Southern California, the newly reopened Orange County Museum of Art chose to inaugurate its new 53,000 foot space with the more than seven foot tall Ocean Park #36 (1970), a chalky, prismatic oil on canvas. The year prior, 1969, New Paintings by Richard Diebenkorn opened at the nearby Los Angeles County Museum of Art, introducing Los Angeles audiences to the Ocean Park paintings and the artist’s first solo show in the city since 1960.


Contemporary critics series debuts @DiebenkornFoundation

Prose-poet, essayist, and art writer Charity Coleman

Today is the kick off of a trio of newly commissioned #Diebenkorn100 essays in miniature for @DiebenkornFoundation by a diverse group of contemporary visual critics, who were invited to write on any work, series, or period in the artist’s life and with full access to the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation Archives. The series debuts with a lyrical, elliptical essay by Charity Colemen, a prose-poet, essayist, and art writer who has written for Artforum, BOMB, and elsewhere, who unearths the artist’s 1988 CBS Sunday Morning News interview as a point of departure to consider how he talked, and sometimes struggled to talk, about his work in interviews, writing, and correspondence. The series will continue with an essay by Los Angeles artist and arts writer Ricky Amadour and a contributor to Frieze, who will explore the artist’s relationship to place; and New York City arts writer and Artsy editor Harley Wong, who has written for Artforum and Art in America, who will look at the artist as a teacher and how his years as a painting instructor influenced students. A special campaign to promote the series has been designed by San Francisco Bay Area-based MacFadden and Thorpe and launches today on @DiebenkornFoundation.


New scholarship sheds light on the artist’s studio materials through the eyes of a young artist

A yellow Montecruz cigar box with assorted oil colors inside found in Richard Diebenkorn’s Healdsburg studio, Calif., 1993, Richard Diebenkorn Foundation Archives

The Foundation recently completed the second year of its internship program for students from communities that are underrepresented in careers in museums and other visual arts organizations, familiarizing students with all aspects of foundation operations and providing opportunities to learn skills required for a career in arts organizations. Interns have worked with each member of staff, assisting in their departmental responsibilities, including catalogue raisonné development and research, collections management and registration, archival processing, color proofing and imaging, and digital educational, marketing, and social media initiatives. Gabrielle Rivera (2022), who is earning her B.A. in Art Practice at the University of California, Berkeley, with coursework in social practice and curatorial and global perspectives in contemporary art, produced a lively, insightful new contribution to the study and understanding of the artist as part of the Foundation’s quarterly digital From the Basement series on diebenkorn.org, “From Folgers to Montecristo: Richard Diebenkorn’s Studio Materials through the eyes of a young artist.” Rivera writes that she discovered “four materials particularly fascinating not only from an art historical perspective but also being an artist myself” in the Foundation’s Archives, that “have not been seen by the public before.” Adding, “he often created his own tools out of common household items: a small segment of a Venetian blind used as a straight edge, a Folgers coffee tin recycled and repurposed as a makeshift paint strainer.”

If you are an institution and would like to participate in #Diebenkorn100, please write to Katharine James, Head of Digital and Public Engagement at katharine@diebenkorn.org.

If you are a member of the press and would like more information, please write to Brent Foster Jones, Public Relations for the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, at press@diebenkorn.org.