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Academy Art Museum offers only East Coast Richard Diebenkorn exhibition
Richard Diebenkorn, Untitled, c. 1945, watercolor, ink and graphite on paper, Collection of the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation.


EASTON, MD .- Audiences today generally know the career of Richard Diebenkorn (1922–1993) in three periods: the Sausalito, Albuquerque, Urbana, and “early Berkeley” periods of Abstract Expressionism; the Berkeley figurative/representational period; and lastly the famous Ocean Park and Healdsburg series of abstractions. Yet Diebenkorn’s earliest work remains very little known. The exhibition, Richard Diebenkorn: Beginnings, 1942–1955, is on view at the Academy Art Museum in Easton, MD from April 26 to July 10, 2019 — the only venue on the East Coast.

The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue aim to present a comprehensive view of Diebenkorn’s evolution to maturity, focusing solely on the paintings and drawings that precede his 1955 shift to figuration at age 33. Included in the exhibition are 100 paintings and drawings from the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, offering a full picture of the young artist’s achievements.

Certainly, many of the elements that came to define Diebenkorn’s mature work are present in his earliest paintings and drawings, which evolved rapidly from representational landscape scenes and portraits of military colleagues, to semi-abstract and Surrealist-inspired depictions of topography and the human form, to mature Abstract Expressionist paintings that he made while living in California, New Mexico, and Illinois. The exhibition reveals the forces that shaped Diebenkorn as a young artist, including his teachers and mentors, most notably painter David Park, whose artistic and paternal guidance lasted until Park’s early death in 1960. It also evidences the influence of artists he admired, including Arshile Gorky, Joan Miró, and Willem de Kooning; as well as the writings of art critic Clement Greenberg.

In 1955, the artist abandoned the non-objective purity of Abstract Expressionism and, while keeping its painterly language, made a return to representational painting. He reversed course yet again in 1967, after moving to Santa Monica, California, where he produced a new, highly acclaimed series that he called Ocean Park. Some of the works in Richard Diebenkorn: Beginnings, 1942–1955 have not been seen by the public nor reproduced, except in the context of the artist’s recent catalogue raisonné (Yale University Press, 2016). Together these drawings and paintings offer a fuller picture of Diebenkorn’s precocious achievements.

Dorsey Waxter, partner at Van Doren Waxter, New York, whose gallery represents the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation states, “This exhibition is an exceptional opportunity to see the nascent work of an artist who became a giant in American art. For anyone who admires Richard Diebenkorn, the paintings and works on paper in this exhibition will offer a window into the artist's early explorations that are so important to understanding what became his mature period. This is a must-see exhibition for all ages and audiences who want to understand how an artist becomes one.”

The exhibition is organized by the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation in conjunction with the Crocker Art Museum, and curated by Scott Shields, Associate Director and Chief Curator of the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA. The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation expands knowledge and fosters appreciation of the artist and his role in central artistic developments of the 20th century. The Foundation increases public access to Diebenkorn's work and understanding of his legacy and times through support of exhibitions, loan of artworks, research, publications, archival services, and digital initiatives. The new diebenkorn.org provides unprecedented public access to the artist’s work and archives.

The exhibition opened in 2017, traveling from the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA; to the David Owsley Museum of Art, Muncie, IN; the Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR; and The Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Malibu, prior to coming to the Academy Art Museum, the sole East Coast venue of the show.





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