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Richard Diebenkorn

Richard Diebenkorn (b. 1922, Portland, OR – d. 1993, Berkeley, CA) is one of the most important post-war American artists. He turned to abstraction in the 1960s, and his works evoke the light, grid layout, and structure of California’s open streets. Over the course of his career, he produced more than 150 prints, working in intaglio, lithography, and woodcut. Most of his prints were created during the last 15 years of his life.

Diebenkorn was born in Portland, Oregon, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1943 until 1945, where he experimented with watercolors and representational sketches. In 1946, he enrolled at the California School of Fine Arts and began teaching there a year later. He received his BA from Stanford in 1949. Diebenkorn died in Berkeley on March 30, 1993.

Diebenkorn worked in figurative and abstract styles at different moments in his career. His early abstract period lasted through the mid-1950s, when he turned to representational imagery, including figure studies and still lifes, until 1967. The figurative works that emerged during this later period are characterized by relatively flat, planar areas of color and geometric compositions.

The stylistic fluctuations in Diebenkorn’s work throughout his career were influenced by a strong sense of locality. His five years spent in Albuquerque, thirteen in Berkeley and two decades in Santa Monica were each extremely productive periods that incurred disparate artistic styles. His most famous series, Ocean Park, was sparked by his move to southern California in 1966. This two-decade project signaled the artist’s development of a complex abstract language that later became his signature style.

Though Diebenkorn only began printmaking in 1962, lithographs, woodcuts and intaglio would become key components of his artistic practice. A break from the solitary confinement of the studio, the collaborative nature of printmaking proved to be fertile ground for creative inspiration. In the 1980’s, Diebenkorn began his iconic Clubs & Spades series derived from his childhood fascination with heraldic symbols. The artist began making prints at Tamarind Lithography Workshop before launching a lifelong collaboration with Crown Point Press.

In 1948, Diebenkorn’s first solo show was held at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. His work has since been included in solo and group exhibitions at the Cantor Arts Center (2019), Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia (2018), Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (2018), Crocker Art Museum (2017), New Museum Los Gatos (2017), Montclair Art Museum (2017), Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia (2017), Baltimore Museum of Art (2016), California Palace of the Legion of Honor (2015), Royal Academy of Arts (2015), Richmond Art Center (2014), M. H. de Young Memorial Museum (2014), Oakland Museum of California (2014), National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution (2014), Orange County Museum of Art (2012), Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth (2011), Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2011) and the J. Paul Getty Museum (2011).

Diebenkorn’s work is in numerous prominent museum collections, including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, NY; Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Baltimore Museum of Art, MD; Berkeley Art Museum, University of California, CA; Brooklyn Museum, NY; Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, CA; City and County of San Francisco, CA; Cleveland Museum of Art, OH; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; Dallas Museum of Art, TX; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA; Fogg Museum, Harvard Art Museums MA; Hammer Museum, University of California, Los Angeles, CA; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.; Honolulu Museum of Art, HI; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Milwaukee Art Museum, WI; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Museum of Modern Art, NY; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; New Orleans Museum of Art, LA; Oakland Museum, CA; Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA; Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, IT; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; Phoenix Art Museum, AZ; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; San Jose Museum of Art, CA; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY; Walker Art Center, MN; Seattle Art Museum; WA; Whitney Museum of American Art, NY and the Yale University Art Gallery, CT.
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