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PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE AMERICAN COLLECTION

Richard Diebenkorn
OCEAN PARK NO. 46
Estimate
6,000,0008,000,000
LOT SOLD. 11,085,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
16

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE AMERICAN COLLECTION

Richard Diebenkorn
OCEAN PARK NO. 46
Estimate
6,000,0008,000,000
LOT SOLD. 11,085,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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New York

Richard Diebenkorn
1922 - 1993
OCEAN PARK NO. 46
signed with initials and dated 71; signed, titled, and dated 1971 on the reverse
oil on canvas
81 x 81 in. 205.7 x 205.7 cm.
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Provenance

Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New York
Richard S. Tucker, Fort Worth (acquired from the above in 1972)
Private Collection, New York
Sotheby's New York, May 9, 1984, Lot 21
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Exhibited

New York, Marlborough Gallery, Richard Diebenkorn - The Ocean Park Series: Recent Work, December 1971, cat. no. 19, p. 37, illustrated
San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Art, Richard Diebenkorn: Paintings from the Ocean Park Series, October 1972 - January 1973, cat. no. 12, illustrated 
Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery; Cincinnati, Cincinnati Art Museum; Washington D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art; New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Oakland, The Oakland Museum of California, Richard Diebenkorn: Paintings and Drawings 1943 - 1976, November 1976 - November 1977, cat. no. 74, p. 82, illustrated

Literature

John Elderfield, "Diebenkorn at Ocean Park," Art International, February 20, 1972, p. 23 (text)
David Carrier, "Diebenkorn Country: The Ocean Park Series," ArtUS, no. 29, 2010, p. 89 (text)

Catalogue Note

Richard Diebenkorn’s momentous Ocean Park series, begun in 1967 and extending nearly 20 years, represents the signature core of his oeuvre and a singular achievement in the sublime beauty of light, color and abstraction in art. In 1966 the artist moved to the Ocean Park section of Santa Monica, California, an area that takes its name from a local amusement park. The lilting effects of sunlight and ocean air as well as the open expanses of beach contrasting sharply with the geometries of nearby streets and buildings are ethereally evoked by Diebenkorn with infinite variety throughout a masterful and prodigious array of paintings on canvas and paper. Ocean Park No. 46 from 1971 is an extraordinarily luminous example from this important series that broke stylistically from the artist’s previous work; these monumental, airy, geometric abstractions represent the second major shift in Diebenkorn’s career since they followed twelve years of boldly considered figuration. Ocean Park No. 46 belongs to the magnificent early years of this great corpus and its diaphanous veils of delicate hues, arrayed in a grid that reduces spatial affinities to their essence, are quite simply a luxurious experience for the eye. As such, the painting was duly included in the major exhibitions of the time before entering the private collection where it has resided for nearly 30 years. Shortly after Ocean Park No. 46 was completed, Diebenkorn inaugurated his tenure at the Marlborough Gallery in New York with a show of the Ocean Park works in 1971 which was followed by an exhibition of the series at the San Francisco Museum of Art on the West Coast in 1972-73. Ocean Park No. 46 was included in both shows, as well as the major travelling retrospective of the artist’s work organized by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in 1976-1977. Such widespread exposure of this series in the first decade of its inception acknowledges the celebrated importance of the Ocean Parks as well as the stature of the artist who had been at the vanguard of American art throughout his abstract and figurative works. Ocean Park No. 46 displays the hallmarks of a painter at the height of his genius as a colorist and compositional innovator.

With the Ocean Park series, Diebenkorn sought to occupy the space between figuration and abstraction with lyrical ease. Unbeholden to artistic orthodoxy of any variety and seemingly unconcerned with art critics of any stripe, Diebenkorn left a legacy as an iconoclastic alternative to the dominant strain of art in his time. Thus, like Willem de Kooning, Diebenkorn honored both figuration and abstraction, never abandoning one for the other; indeed, traces of each co-exist within the other throughout his oeuvre. Realistic interiors and landscapes such as Window from 1967, which portrayed a sparse interior with a flat edge-to-edge composition, was his last representational image before embarking on the Ocean Park series. Simple but grand expanses of bright color dominate the canvas, and one can see Diebenkorn begin to shift toward the heavily abstracted and geometric forms of the Ocean Park paintings. The strong verticals that frame the window and the diagonals of the lone folding chair hint at the innate structure and reductive, non-objective abstractions exemplified by Ocean Park No. 46. Intuitively, Diebenkorn fused enclosed form and spontaneity of line with a strong sense of structure, light, color and space, regardless of the presence or non-presence of objects. As Robert T. Buck noted, the Ocean Park paintings “[combine] a new interpretation of structural, formalistic concern with expressionistic and lyrical tendencies.” (in Exh. Cat., Buffalo, Albright Knox Art Gallery (and travelling), Richard Diebenkorn, Paintings and Drawings, 1943 – 1976, 1976, p. 42)

For all his independence, Diebenkorn considered himself a traditionalist and welcomed identification as a landscape painter.  His work is truly a synthesis of a lifetime of observation, both of his own surroundings – whether in Albuquerque, Urbana, Berkeley or Ocean Park – and of the art historical past. He explored the works of the great colorists Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard, and in fact, visited the Matisse retrospective at the University of California in Los Angeles in 1966, the same year that he moved to Ocean Park and the year prior to beginning the eponymous series. Famously, Diebenkorn saw paintings such as View of Notre Dame (1914) and Open Window, Collioure (1904) which depicted the dissolve between interior and exterior, as well as architecture and setting, so sympathetic to his own visual proclivities. The strong horizontal, vertical and diagonal structure of Ocean Park No. 46, with its unifying chromatic choreography, can be glimpsed in the flattened spatial compositions of The Piano Lesson from 1916, in which the “open window” trope that recurs throughout art history melds so completely with the picture plane that the viewer is uncertain of the spatial relations between the indoor and the outdoor elements. Such modernist qualities would naturally strike a chord for Diebenkorn. As noted by Gerald Nordland in his essay for the 1976 retrospective that included Ocean Park No. 46, “Diebenkorn seeks the wholeness and completeness of a unitary visual expression and he cannot be satisfied with partial, fashionable or convenient solutions.” (Exh. Cat., Buffalo, Ibid, p. 41)

It is Diebenkorn’s restless attention to material process which undergirds the effect of the Ocean Park canvases, and No. 46, in particular.  Like the planes and facets of color laid thinly and delicately, one on top of the other, colored lines of paint are drawn and redrawn, nearly covered and then retraced.  Washes of pinks, peaches, lavenders and yellows are embraced by bolder stripes of blue, red, green and yellow, banding and marking off geometric fields. Diebenkorn shifted them as he constructed the composition, leaving pentimenti as trace records of old ideas and hints of what might have been; and yet the final solution, the topmost layer, lays claim to a restful, seemingly inevitable solution. Diebenkorn took pains to show this painting as a process of alternating decisiveness and recanting, all advanced through the tactile materiality of paint on canvas.  As Jane Livingston describes, “One of the most important hallmarks of the Ocean Park painting, evident from the very beginning, is that each one creates its own, self-contained chromatic universe, and each functions within that universe in a structurally self-sufficient way.  The sheer complexity is unrivaled in the abstract painting of the era.  It might well be argued that, in this sense, Mark Rothko takes a distant second place to Richard Diebenkorn.” (Exh. Cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art (and travelling), The Art of Richard Diebenkorn, 1997, p. 65)

Ocean Park No. 46 and its sister paintings bear a kinship with Paul Cézanne’s revered 19th century landscapes of the environs of Montagne Sainte-Victoire that were the portal through which all artists of the time glimpsed the path to modernism. Cézanne was considered the father of non-objective abstraction despite plying his vocation in the realm of objective art. He described planes of color with non-contoured brushstrokes to form complex landscapes and still lifes, and sought to simplify forms to their geometric essence. Of further importance to Diebenkorn, Cézanne pioneered a vision of multiplicity, rendering different yet simultaneous perceptions within a seemingly single point of perspective. In similar fashion, John Elderfield has noted in his essay for the 1997-98 retrospective of the artist’s work that “Diebenkorn, too, is a painter of emotional mood. ... The Ocean Park paintings do evoke architecture in their geometries and they do evoke the passage of time in their revisions. Evoking architecture, they seem ‘possibly haunted by the erasure of human presences,’ as Arthur Danto mused. Evoking the passage of time, they possibly record the transitoriness as well as the continuum of human endeavors.” (Exh. Cat., New York, Ibid., pp. 111-12)

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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New York