This month I visited the Royal Academy to see the Richard Diebenkorn exhibition. Diebenkorn was an American painter whose work is associated with the abstract expressionism movement of the 1950s and 1960s. He is known as one of the post-war greats whose work is both figurative and non-representational. He has been described by the Washington Post as one of America’s “finest abstract painters”, and the Academy brings his work to a UK audience for the first time in more than 20 years.
Diebenkorn’s work is often seen to in three phases. The Royal Academy website explains the layout of the exhibition: “We begin in the early 1950s, when Abstract Expressionism was a dominant force on the East Coast. Diebenkorn initially embraced abstraction, before making what was a surprising change of direction to figuration in the mid-1950s, which would persist until the mid 1960s. Then, returning to abstraction in the late 1960s, we look at his famous Ocean Park series, which according to the Boston Globe includes “some of the most beautiful works of art created in America or anywhere else since the Second World War.””
I knew very little about Diebenkorn before this exhibition. I was immediately drawn in by the bold, bright and exciting colours. The work is collected yet random, with a mixture of shapes that allow each individual to decide for themselves what they can see formed on the canvas. Each person will interpret and capture the work in their own way.
My favourite pieces were of the female figures. There is something delicate and sensitive about them. Even in their abstract nature, Diebenkorn brings emotion to the character, even when faceless. They are serene and thoughtful. I also loved the surburban scenes. They truly capture a feeling of what that time was like in America.
The exhibition is on until 7th June in the Sackler Wing, Burlington House.