Tag Archives: De Young Museum

Richard Diebenkorn at the de Young

The de Young Museum in San Francisco is on a roll. In the past three years or so, the de Young has hosted some amazing art exhibitions, with still more in the queue. The latest in this string of must-see shows is Diebenkorn: the Berkeley Years 1953–1967. Richard Diebenkorn lived and taught in the Bay Area, where he influenced Wayne Thiebaud and worked with or knew Elmer Bischoff, David Park, Nathan Oliveira and others.

 

Richard Diebenkorn Figure on a Porch
Richard Diebenkorn, Figure on a Porch, 1959. Oil on canvas, 57 x 62 inches. Oakland Museum of California, Gift of Anonymous Donor Program of the American Federation of the Arts © 2013 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation. My favorite piece in the show.

Now, I’m not much of a fan of Bay Area figurative art, or of mid-century modern art in general. Abstract art isn’t my thing. I tend to come down on the side of the Beautiful in art, not the challenging. Indeed, before we went into the Diebenkorn exhibit, my friend Steven and I meandered through a small collection of modern pieces in one of the museum’s other rooms—and I felt like I was in one of those New Yorker cartoons of a woman standing in front of a piece of modern art grumbling “I don’t understand this.” I’m sorry: casts of tire treads in clay and binder mounted on a wall? Never mind if Robert Rauschenberg did it—why is that art?

And yet… The Diebenkorn show really struck me. Some of his abstracts are clearly landscapes: he admitted as much himself. The figurative pieces from the late 1950s are harsh, gritty, sometimes ugly. There is a palpable sense of alienation in those pieces, as if they were actively pushing the viewer away. But if the alienation is palpable, so is the life force. The energy. The furious scrubbing and layering and scraping of the paint. This is not Bouguereau’s invisible brushstrokes, or Monet’s calm deployment of paint (I’m thinking of the water lilies here). This is more like Van Gogh’s frenetic brushwork, only released to make its own abstract way.

The show is set up more or less chronologically. The alienation passes, the paintings calm down—still abstractions, but less driven, less hemmed in. The works become explorations and contemplations, whether they are just a coffee cup on a table, a pair of pliers, or a woman sitting in a chair. The final pieces on the exhibition show the clear influence of Diebenkorn’s trip to the Soviet Union and of seeing the works of Matisse.

It’s a fascinating show. I learned a lot about art, about painting, about trusting the medium more. And now I want a studio where I can paint much larger works!

Diebenkorn: the Berkeley Years 1953–1967 runs through September 29, 2013. Highly recommended.

Have you seen the Diebenkorn show? Do you prefer abstract art over representational works? Why or why not?

 

Upcoming Museum Exhibitions

For the past few years, there have been a number of quite stellar art exhibitions featuring impressionist or sort of near-Impressionist art in the northern California region. Now the museums seem like they are focusing on more modern art, which appeals less to me. Still, there are lots of shows that sound interesting. Here is a completely subjective sampling.

Japanese Prints: Hokusai at LACMA

April 13–July 28, 2013

LA County Museum of Art

 

J.C. Leyendecker

Ongoing

The Haggin Museum, Stockton, California

Like Norman Rockwell? Check out J. C. Leyendecker.

 

Inspiration Points: Masterpieces of California Landscape

May 31–August 11, 2013

Oakland Museum of California

The Oakland Museum has one of the best collections of early California art around.  IMHO.

 

Impressionists on the Water

Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco

June 1 – October 13, 2013

In celebration of the Americas Cup races.

 

Diebenkorn: the Berkeley Years, 1953–1966

De Young Museum, San Francisco

June 22–September 29, 2013

I know, Diebenkorn is more modern than my typical recommendations.  But every artist working today has to contend with Diebenkorn somehow.

 

The Epic and the Intimate: French Drawings from the John D. Reilly Collection

June 30–September 29, 2013

Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento

 

David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition

DeYoung Museum, San Francisco

October 26, 2013–January 20, 2014

 

Matisse from SFMOMA

November 9, 2013–September 7, 2014

Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco

Paintings from the SF MOMA collection while that museum undergoes renovation.

 

And of course, the really big not-to-miss show:

Anders Zorn, Sweden’s Master Painter

November 9, 2013–February 2, 2014

Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco

Among many artists I admire, Anders Zorn is ranked as one of the Big Three among many painters I respect, though he is less well known to the American public. (This Big Three comprises Sargent, Sorolla, and Zorn.) There was a smaller show at the Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum in Boston earlier this year. This show promises to be much larger, and a chance for those of us not going to Sweden to see his work in person.

What shows have I missed that you are looking forward to seeing this year?