Richard Diebenkorn at the Royal Academy of Arts
Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993) is regarded as a master in the USA, but his work is still relatively unknown in Europe. Despite this, he achieved the rare feat of winning new plaudits whenever his style was altered, and his reputation has continued to grow in recent years. The exhibition of his compositions shown at the Royal Academy of Arts highlights the evolution of his style, chronologically, throughout three rooms of the intimate third-floor space.
During the period of 1950-56, Diebenkorn went through a creative flourish that most artists strive a lifetime to achieve. His work changed drastically each time he moved house, which happened three times during this period. From the glaring deserts of Albuquerque to the mid-western town of Urbana, then the foggy climes of Berkeley, these vastly different environments inspired his contrasting styles. From 1966, he took up office at UCLA, taking off on another tangent and living out his days bringing the European styling of Matisse and Mondrian into his own vision of California.
Diebenkorn’s work is striking, particularly the baron landscapes and unrelenting horizons that surrounded him in New Mexico. The claustrophobic atmosphere of these depictions could also be construed as calming; they are perhaps the first examples of such scenery that an American has tackled in abstract expressionism, alongside the work of Franz Klin. These adorned the walls of West Coast galleries long before Don Van Vliet (also known as Captain Beefheart) decided to paint full time, receiving the accolades of innovation in this field. By that point, Diebenkorn had moved on yet again, with his adopted home of California inspiring brush ins with suburban life. In these oil paintings, he treats his subjects with an innocence that allows the psyche enough space to interpret these everyday scenes.
It was also in his later period that he began working on the Ocean Park series, which now runs to around 500 pieces in private collections, including the White House. A dozen or so are presented in the third and final room. Although the collection is modest, it is definitely a worthwhile visit, and will hopefully be the start of wider recognition for a modern day maverick.
Richard Diebenkorn is at Royal Academy of Arts from 14th March until 7th June 2015, for further information visit here.