Blackpaint 218


Richard Diebenkorn

I’m quite bemused at Diebenkorn’s career, really; for my money, the earlier abstracts from the 50s and 60s are very much better than those of his second abstract period.  If you look at the Albuquerque, or Berkeley paintings, you see a series of rich, textured colour patches and tracts, marked and scored with black paint and sometimes (like Roger Hilton’s) charcoal, scribbles, smears and thickly-painted squirls in desert-tawny, red, greys and whites, sometimes a lavender or mauve.  They are, unmistakeably, abstractions of aerial landscapes.  I’ve gone on about them before, somewhere.

The Ocean Park pictures, though interesting, are much less so.  The colours are more sickly, the reds, yellows and blues thinner and more acidic (many are acrylic on paper).  There are ruled lines, geometric shapes – many resemble shuttered windows.  They’re  dead, compared to the earlier stuff.  Jane Livingstone’s book cites the influence of Mondrian here, and quotes his dictum that “chance must be avoided, as much as calculation”.  What, you may ask, do you utilise, if not  chance or calculation?  Mondrian’s  answer is “intuition”.

If you avoid the intervention of chance, accident, whatever you call it, I think you lose the possibility of that “life” that sometimes  is caught in a picture, flickering across or against a smooth, uniform patch of colour.  Diebenkorn’s early abstracts  capture a lot of  those moments – just check  the series I have mentioned.  The Ocean Park pictures, sadly, never do.

Bonnard

Something that I did not previously know about the above was that one of his models, Renee Monchaty, commited suicide – in  her bath.  And Bonnard discovered the body.This was  in Rome, in 1923.  He subsequently (and famously) went on to do a number of  paintings of his wife Marthe getting in and out of the bath and in  two at least, lying full length  in the tub.  Surely, whenever he painted a bath scene, he would have been reminded…  Clearly, real artists are different to the rest of us; I’m reminded of  Bacon painting George Dyer with his new lover’s head  substituted (see Blackpaint 96), and Araki’s wife.

Quiz

In whose work does a businessman sit in a bar with a chamber pot on  his head?

Millbank by Blackpaint

11.11.10

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