MY REVIEW OF THE RICHARD DIEBENKORN’S RETROSPECTIVE AT THE ROYAL ACADEMY IN LONDON FOR THE HUFFINGTON POST IS AVAILABLE HERE. IF YOU LIKE IT, PLEASE LIKE IT AND SHARE IT!
My friend JULIAN FIRTH reacted to this article in the following way: I hardly looked at the text in the catalogue, but followed some of the notes on the walls as they described his biographical time line. The whole blah-blah about influences is invariably pointless and reductive, any artist is looking looking looking and garnering and squirreling all the time and such references are only a way for the voyeur to place the work in the context of their own limited knowledge and lack thereof.
The narrative I imposed was more to do with his involvement with people, as important significant aspects of his connection with his creativity. For me that seemed to follow a low-key arc, actual relationships, and figurative paintings beng formed significantly in his middle years, while his more characteristic abstracts, relating to the land,light and chroma scale as refracted through his own internal/compositional psycho-topography occur at the beginning and end of his life. Hitchens, Lanyon, Hilton, even Sutherland and Nicholson, Moore and Bacon all explore their internal responses to the external world through abstract expressionism, but the British academic splint of traditionalism has always discouraged the belief that this really is a valid genre in a major key’. And he added: ‘ In a post war age of Herculean masculinism a lot of American Abstract Expressionism was also a sublimation of the artists gentler, more quilted emotional patterning. Discuss, Rodrigo?
Me: I think that Julian is right at addressing the issue of the construction of an American idea of ‘masculinity’ through Abstract Expressionism and Diebenkorn as reacting to it. In fact, his Ocean Park series are reactions to Mondrian but also to Rothko, to give just one example. While in Rothko, the use of colour was ‘total’ (from the point of view of ‘environmental’ and ‘all encompassing’), in Diebenkorn is delicate, eerie and, sometimes, kitsch. While in Mondrian the organisation of the composition was ‘total’, in Diebenkorn the composition is constructive but fragile. I think this is the point that by putting excessive emphasis on his ‘European influences’, the Royal Academy ends up missing. I truly loved Diebenkorn work because it is utterly human. It is all about learning by trial and error. J A T