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Posted inArt

Watcher from the Skies: Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park Series

Beginning in 1968, in an act of governmental largesse unlikely to be repeated any time soon, the Bureau of Reclamation of the U.S. Department of the Interior invited forty artists, all expenses paid, to create works documenting its water reclamation efforts in the West. Among those asked to participate was Richard Diebenkorn, who traveled in 1970 to the Columbia River valley and Salt River in Arizona for five days of expansive looking, taking in landscape views from a promontory and making several overhead passes in a helicopter. Long fascinated by aerial perspective, he found himself “boggled” by what he saw. “Whenever there was agriculture going on,” he later recalled, “you could see process — ghosts of former tilled fields, patches of land being eroded.”

Posted inArt

Taking Another Look at Robert Motherwell

The Museum of Modern Art’s sprawling re-envisioning of Abstract Expressionism, “Abstract Expressionist New York,” inspires a lot of looking. The stately museum’s upper floor galleries, previously dedicated to the slow progress of abstraction in modern art, have been shuffled around to get a better view of exactly how the movement we came to call Abstract Expressionism developed.

It was one particular showing that caught my eye and really caused me to stop in my tracks and rethink where I pigeonholed these artists. Standing sentinel on one back wall were two works that cohered together perfectly, paintings whose muted colors became bright and whose architectonic compositions were like an abstract expressionism slowed down and frozen in time. Upon closer approach, I noticed that the pieces were by Robert Motherwell, an artist I was aware of and respected, but didn’t enormously enjoy. Yet something about these two paintings, “Western Air” (1946-47) and “Personage, with Yellow Ochre and White” (1947) made me reconsider.

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