Today was the last day of the Richard Diebenkorn exhibit at the Harwood Museum in Taos. It was the first time these paintings have ever been shown together–his “Albuquerque Series”. Diebenkorn created this work between January 1950 and June 1952, while he was a graduate student at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He was 28 years old…
Being the last day of the exhibit, I ran to town this afternoon for the sole purpose of seeing his work–just one more time before it’s gone. And I’m so happy I did. I met Charles Strong, co-curator of the exhibit and friend of Diebenkorn. (Charlie is a painter and studied at the San Francisco Art Institute with Elmer Bischoff, Richard Diebenkorn, Jack Jefferson and Frank Lobdel!)…so needless to say, I was in heaven walking around the museum with him as he shared history, stories and his thoughts about Diebenkorn’s life and work. I’m still in awe really. He was so generous and so kind. He talked about the feeling of freedom in Diebenkorn’s work, the speed of line, the elegant tension between his line and color, between his space and his surface. He told me that Diebenkorn never would have done this work had he not taken this time to a. be a student again, b. live in NM where he was so affected by the vast sky and the high desert landscape, and c. gone on his own (away from his friends/fellow Bay Area painters) to experiment with his own voice. He pointed out so many insightful things about each painting or drawing, too, like how Be-bop Jazz (Charlie Parker style) heavily influenced some of his lines, particularly the one above. He said that it was Rothko who gave Diebenkorn the spiritual (permission?) to experiment with thin washes and bare canvas as opposed to covering the surface with thick layers of paint. He said that Diebenkorn worked at lightening speed and often turned his paintings around and around as he worked on them. Yep, it was my lucky day.
I’ve studied (and loved) Richard Diebenkorn’s work since my first year in art school. I’ve always been inspired by his art, but after spending time with his original paintings and drawings the past couple months, and learning more about him, I’m completely shaken up–in the best way possible.
The exhibit is traveling to The San Jose Museum of Art in San Jose, CA, October 15, 2007 thru January 6, 2008, and then to The Grey Art Gallery at New York University from January 24 thru April 5, 2008. I hope you get the opportunity to see it. Also, you can buy the Richard Diebenkorn in New Mexico book here— it’s outrageous. So beautiful and inspiring.