Ocean Park #128, 1984; oil on canvas, 93 x 81 in.
Not long ago I wrote a blog post, which you can read here, about books on my shelf which gave me color ideas for my work. Among them was the catalog Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series, a richly illustrated book focusing on this extended series of paintings, made over a period of twenty years, from which I photographed these images. The structure of the paintings is architecturally or landscape based; Diebenkorn has spoken of being inspired by seeing landscapes from the air: "it was the combination of desert and agriculture that really turned me on...". The gorgeous blues of #128 must have come from the ocean near his Ocean Park studio in Santa Monica.
Henri Matisse, Goldfish and Palette, 1914; oil on canvas, 57 3/4 x 44 1/4 in., Museum of Modern Art.
As I looked through the catalog, what came to mind over and over were the paintings of Matisse, those from his more abstract period dating around 1914, such as the one above. Diebenkorn's greens and blues also recalled Matisse for me, though I saw no reference to Matisse in the catalog.
Ocean Park #41, 1971; oil on canvas, 100 x 81 in.
Ocean Park #49, 1972; oil on canvas, 93 x 81 in.
These are very large paintings, and though it's been a few years since I stood in front of one, I remember the pleasure of being enveloped in their space and color. In #49 the cool grays are like a large bank of fog, shifting and changing, held down by the more solid color at top.
Ocean Park #55, 1972; oil on canvas, 78 1/4 x 78 1/4 in.
I like the soft, warm tones of this painting, melting into grays, traversed by a sharp blue.
Ocean Park #89.5, 1975; oil on canvas, 66 x 81 3/4 in.
A sea of blue-grays underlaid with ochers end in curved forms, different from the straight line geometries of most of the Ocean Park series; their arabesques point to a different architectural tradition, or perhaps a memory of the figure.
Ocean Park #59, 1973; oil on canvas, 93 x 81 in.
More semi-circles appear in the expanse of black, lightening its mood, as does the "window" of green, white, and blue.
Ocean Park #133, 1985; oil on canvas, 81 x 81 in.
I love these black paintings; they are a black that is alive and full of light. Again I think of Matisse, who had an exhibition in 1946 titled "Black is a Color"; he said "black is a force" (from Jack Flam's Matisse on Art).
Cigar Box Lid #1, 1976; oil and charcoal on wood, 5 1/2 x 5 3/4 in.
Diebenkorn also did a series of beautiful tiny paintings on cigar box lids. He has taken his sense of form and color and made it fit on an intimately sized surface.
Cigar Box Lid #6, 1979; oil on wood, 8 1/2 x 6 1/8 in.
The small size seems to have encouraged him to play with different forms...
Cigar Box Lid #12, 1979; oil on wood, 8 7/8 x 8 in.
...and with a minimal type of expression, still very engaging, fresh, and compelling; the simple lines have a rhythmic force on the simple grounds.
Untitled #16, 1970; gouache and charcoal on paper, 23 1/4 x 18 3/4 in.
The catalog has a large selection of works on paper and prints; I thought I'd show you this early drawing which I love for its directness, its overlapping welter of cool gray lines, like a forest thicket or a busy construction site. These works are full of interesting color ideas, food for thought for me in my studio.