Richard Diebenkorn ‘Ocean Park Series’

Diebenkorn's career spanned some four decades and culminated with a 25-year reign as one of America's pre-eminent abstract painters. Whilst not my personal favourites among his series of works (see previous post on his Berkeley series), the source of this reputation was his ‘Ocean Park’ paintings, a series begun around 1967 after the artist set up his studio in Venice, California. Celebrated as brilliant compositions of colour and paint, the Ocean Park paintings are both loose and structured, both moody and bright. Each canvas is meant to be episodic - of a day in the life of the artist.

Ocean Park itself is a community near Santa Monica, where Diebenkorn traces a daily path between home and studio, but whether or not these works make the topical references to local landscape with which they are credited, they clearly are something more than abstractions with recurrent compositional motifs and stunning juxtapositions of colour laid on with passion.

Diebenkorn substitutes reality with washes of colour, corrected and controlled by a drawn grid. His armature is loose, irregularly spaced and measured according to colour or scale, responding, always, to what Diebenkorn called ‘the incidental.’ While some may argue that this is nothing more than a repetitive theme, the real strength of this body of work are the myriad shifts and nuances that transform Ocean Park from piece to piece. The series displays a splendid range of colours and a variation of scale from small, intimate oil-on-wood works such as the Cigar Box Series (painted in the 1970s) to monumental tableaux. Though I have yet to see one ‘in the flesh’ the cigar box lid paintings are the ones I could find a little wall space for.

 Cigar Box Lid #1

 Cigar Box Lid #3

 Cigar Box Lid #5

 Cigar Box Lid #6

 Cigar Box Lid #11

 Ocean Park #19

 Ocean Park #49

 Ocean Park #67

 Ocean Park #95

 Ocean Park #105

 Ocean Park #107

 Ocean Park #114

 Ocean Park #115

 Ocean Park #116

 Ocean Park #118

 Ocean Park #125

 Ocean Park #128

 Ocean Park #130

 Ocean Park #140