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Richard Diebenkorn in New Mexico

June 2 - September 9, 2007

The Harwood Museum of Art of the University of New Mexico announces the opening of "Richard Diebenkorn in New Mexico," an exhibition featuring works created during the early 1950s when the artist was a graduate student at UNM in Albuquerque.

"Diebenkorn in New Mexico,"  will be on view at the Harwood Museum of Art from June 2nd through September 9th, 2007. The exhibition makes a significant contribution to the study of American art and provides a greater understanding of the work that served as the foundation for the artist's illustrious career. .                                                                                                           

"Much has been written about Richard Diebenkorn during his lifetime and since his death in 1993, but there is a scarcity of information about this important and little-known period in his life and work," says Charles Lovell, director of the Harwood Museum and co-curator of the exhibition. "Those years when he was a young family man, supported with funding from the G.I. Bill, free to paint in the privacy of his own studio, enchanted by the breathtaking beauty of the New Mexico landscape and far away from the pressures of the art scenes on either coast were crucial in the artist's development. The drawings and paintings that resulted and are featured in this show are revealed to be the product of an unusually mature artist who was not yet 30 when he produced his first important series."                                                                                   

This exhibition opens with a preview reception for Harwood Museum Alliance Members on Saturday June 2nd from 6-8pm. A public reception is scheduled for the following Saturday June 8th from 5-7. 

In conjunction with  "Diebenkorn in New Mexico,"  the Harwood Museum of Art will also host a one-day symposium on August 24 2007, presenting Diebenkorn scholars from around the world. Speakers include John Elderfield, chief curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art; Dr. Susan Landauer, curator of the San Jose Museum of Art; Mark Lavatelli, painter, teacher and Diebenkorn scholar; Jane Livingston, author of The Art of Richard Diebenkorn published by the Whitney Museum of American Art; and Gerald Nordland, author of Richard Diebenkorn published by Rizzoli.       

Artist and co-curator Charles Strong, who conceived this exhibition will moderate the panel discussion that concludes the symposium. Tickets to the Diebenkorn in New Mexico Symposium are available online www.harwoodmuseum.org or can be obtained by calling 505/758-9826 x 109. This event, sponsored by the Thaw Charitable Foundation will be held at the Taos Center for the Arts. Fee.         

Key members of the Diebenkorn in New Mexico project team include Phyllis Diebenkorn, widow of the artist, who will loan key works and provide assistance with scholarships and research; the aforementioned Charles Strong; and University of New Mexico Harwood Museum staff, Director: Charles Lovell, and Curator, Margaret Bullock, who are managing all aspects of the loans and touring exhibition.

To accompany the exhibition, a 168-page book has been published by the Museum of New Mexico Press and the UNM Harwood Museum of Art. Co-authored by Gerald Nordland, Mark Lavatelli, Charles Strong, and Charles Lovell and edited by Julia Moore, the 168-page book features 95 color plates and 20 illustrations in black and white, documenting Diebenkorn's time in New Mexico. "Diebenkorn in New Mexico" is available at the Harwood Museum Shop; contact 505/758-9826 x 102 for information. 

Borrowing from museums, private collections nationally, and the Diebenkorn estate, "Diebenkorn in New Mexico" will travel to the San Jose Museum of Art from October 15, 2007 to January 6, 2008, and then to the Grey Art Gallery at New York University from January 23 to April 15, 2008,  

The Museum will provide Docent led tours every Wednesday at 1pm for the duration of the exhibition. These tours are free with Museum admission


Wall panel texts from the exhibition    

The paintings and drawings Richard Diebenkorn produced in Albuquerque are prime examples of Abstract Expressionism. They are also powerful evidence that New Mexico is where the artist found his distinctive voice. The dry, piquant air and dazzling light of New Mexico permeated Diebenkorn's artistic sensibility, contributing to exquisite tensions of line and color, of space and surface, of disarray and order. In the raw and often tender beauty of this exciting body of work, one sees and feels echoes of the harsh and spacious high-desert environment and also a new openness to landscape influences that proved seminal for the rest of his distinguished painting career.
In 1950, at age twenty-eight and already a recognized talent in the Bay Area, Diebenkorn turned to his untapped GI Bill benefits and decided to pursue a master's degree at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. There, he mostly painted with oils on canvas, but he had an opportunity to paint a mural, now lost, and made several abstract, highly linear welded metal sculptures, many gouache, ink, and crayon drawings, and at least one print.
These works combine pre-existing approaches with the new landscape influences. Those with thickly brushed, blocky black shapes were a continuation of ideas from the California School of Fine Arts. In contrast, Diebenkorn's response to the new environment is revealed in several paintings notable for their luminous fields of tans or grays activated with quirky, looping lines alluding to the colors and expanse of the New Mexico landscape.
The untidy edges, quirky lines, and vestigial forms that define Diebenkorn's aesthetic, came to fruition in New Mexico, along with his manifold line. The overall grittiness, the rawness of edge, line, and shape combine with unexpected colors to make paintings of fierce beauty -- intensely satisfying and purely Diebenkorn.
-- Mark Lavatelli
At the time of his death in 1993, painter, draftsman, and printmaker Richard Diebenkorn was celebrated worldwide as an artist of major importance. As time has passed and offered its perspective, Diebenkorn's body of work, vision, and stature appear more and more impressive. In spite of the fact that for much of his career his West Coast upbringing and training distanced him from the post-war New York art scene and that his loyal affinity to the West contributed to a lingering de facto status as an outsider, today Diebenkorn is recognized as one of the creative giants of the second half of the twentieth century and among the most original of all modern artists.
In Diebenkorn in New Mexico, we explore an especially significant and pivotal time in Richard Diebenkorn's artistic development: the two and a half years he lived and painted in New Mexico, sometimes spoken of as his Albuquerque period. In contrast to his better-known, later works, the Albuquerque oeuvre is comparatively unexamined. In an interview for a Fogg Museum of Art exhibition catalogue Diebenkorn said of this time: "Temperamentally, perhaps I had always been a landscape painter, but I was fighting the landscape feeling; in Albuquerque I relaxed and began to think of natural forms in relation to my own feelings." The Albuquerque works are in fact abstract improvisations in color and line, with intuitive reflections of landscape elements. They have a toughness and a tenderness that reflect the Northern New Mexico landscape.
Diebenkorn had been adding confidence to knowledge as he moved from Woodstock to Sausalito and then to Albuquerque. After Albuquerque, he was poised for the next large steps on his path to eminence.
-- Gerald Nordland
Diebenkorn came to New Mexico a brilliant, focused, hardworking, dedicated artist. He was light years away from being a student. He had, after all, taught serious artists and veterans for three years at the California School of Fine Arts. At the University of New Mexico he stored all that away and became a pupil of sorts. In this fresh environment, with tuition and materials paid for by the GI Bill and the wise support of UNM senior art department faculty member, Raymond Jonson (1891-1982), he soon moved toward a kind of painting that, although rigorous and considered, emits energies of freedom, freshness and spontaneity and has inferences of landscape. The light and high desert vistas made a clear impression. Diebenkorn was able to crystallize his vision. In both opaque paint and vaporous washes of color -- color as light -- and with inspired, inventive drawing he worked prolifically in seemingly effortless acts of creation. The feeling of freedom and the apparent speed of the line disguises the structural solidity, however. In his own words, he developed a "sense of scale. . . . I think that has a lot to do with the Southwest because the scale is, there is something that really is kind of overwhelming and most immediate when one is there.It [the sky] seems immense there. And Phyllis and I both had thought, well, we couldn't really live away from the water, the sea, too long, very long, so that [we had] the apprehension when we moved back there, that there'd be no ocean. And well, the sky took the place of the ocean."
-- Charles Strong

Richard Diebenkorn: A Chronology
1922 Born Portland, Oregon on April 22
1924 Family relocates to San Francisco
1940 Enrolls at Stanford University as an art major; studies with Daniel Mendelowitz;
paintings from this period are realistic
1943 Enlists in the Marine Corps and is assigned to the cartography unit; as part of
his training he attends the University of California, Berkeley and studies with
Erle Loran, Worth Ryder and art historian Eugene Neuhaus
1945 Honorably discharged from the Marines; enrolls in the California School of Fine
Arts in San Francisco where he studies with David Park and begins to
paint more abstractly
1946 Lives for eight months in Woodstock, New York. He speaks of this time as "when
I taught myself to paint."
1947 Settles in Sausalito and begins teaching at the California School of Fine Arts
1948 First one man show at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor
1950 Moves to Albuquerque to obtain his Master of Fine Arts degree from the
University of New Mexico
1951 In May, holds his Master's thesis exhibition in Albuquerque
1952 Leaves Albuquerque to teach at the University of Illinois at Urbana
1953 Spends the summer in New York then returns to Berkeley in the fall; with the aid
of a Rosenberg Fellowship he is able to paint full time
1955 By summer of this year, experimenting with representational imagery starting
with still life then interior scenes, landscapes and figural compositions
1966 Moves to Santa Monica, California and shortly thereafter begins his "Ocean Park"
series of paintings in which he returns to abstraction. Ultimately, the series
numbers some 100 paintings and occupies his attention for the next 20 years.
1967 Begins teaching at the University of California, Los Angeles
1988 Retrospective exhibition of his drawings at the Museum of Modern Art,
New York, curated by John Elderfield
1993 Dies on March 30 in Berkeley, California
1997 Posthumous retrospective of his work at the Whitney Museum of Art, New York, curated by Jane Livingston. It travels to the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art


Gallery Talk

The Harwood Museum of Art presents a Gallery Talk on the exhibition "Diebenkorn in New Mexico" with co-curator Charles Strong, Thursday June 28th at 7pm. This program is free to Harwood Alliance Members & UNM Community, or with a fee to others. 

For this program Charles Strong will lead a focused tour of the exhibition and discuss why this particular body of work created by Richard Diebenkorn as a Graduate Student at UNM Albuquerque, is so significant to his career. This Gallery Talk will be a walk through of the exhibition providing insights into the artist's methods, materials as well as interpretations of specific works included in this important exhibition. 

Charles Strong received is BFA and MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. It was here as a Graduate Student that he met and worked with Diebenkorn. Strong is also the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to England as well as an NEA Grant for painting.  A resident of Taos since 1990, Strong is a painter, sculpture and photographer. In addition to his artistic pursuits, Strong serves on various local Boards and has curated as well as co-curated numerous exhibitions including this summer's "Diebenkorn in New Mexico" as well as the Harwood's 2004 exhibition "Wayne Thiebaud: City/Country." 

Strong explains: "I conceived of the idea for an exhibition of Richard Diebenkorn's work many years ago as this period as a student at UNM was so important in the formation of his mature artistic identity. Also, these works have never before been exhibited together in this scale. For Thursday's Gallery Talk I will discuss this two year time period Diebenkorn spent in New Mexico as a break-through period for the artist while focusing on particular paintings and drawings." 

In addition to organizing and co-curating "Diebenkorn in New Mexico" Strong's essay on the artist is included in the companion book, "Diebenkorn in New Mexico" published by the Museum of New Mexico Press. Strong will also moderate the "Diebenkorn in New Mexico" Symposium scheduled for August 24th featuring lectures by the nations leading Diebenkorn Scholars. 

For more information on Charles Strong's June 28th Gallery Talk at the Harwood please call 505/758-9826 x 105.



The Harwood Museum of Art of the University of New Mexico presents a lecture with Helen Park Bigelow, daughter of artist David Park, on Richard Diebenkorn, Thursday August 2nd  at 7pm.  (right: Helen Park Bigelow, photo courtesy Harwood Museum of Art of the University of New Mexico)

Before Richard Diebenkorn moved to Albuquerque in 1950, he studied painting at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, now the San Francisco Art Institute, where David Park was on of his instructors.  

Helen Park Bigelow explains: "After the Diebenkorn's returned to the Bay Area from New Mexico, they and my parents became best friends. I was married and living nearby, and it was during those years, the fifties, that my three children were born. I was in and out of my parent's house, where I saw Dick and Phyllis often, and got to know them and love them and also got to know and love Dick's works. Through my father, Dick and the third player in that important friendship. The painter Elmer Bischof, those years gave us what became known as Bay Figurative Painting, and the emergence into the national recognition of David, Dick and Elmer. As I observed the three young painters ­ Dick and Elmer in their thirties and David in his forties ­ their passion for work left deep impressions. For my Harwood Talk I will share stories and insights from those years, with a focus on the friendship, competition and recognition the three painters shared." 

Helen Park Bigelow was a studio potter for many years and an owner of a natural food store in California, but writing has always been the endeavor closest to her heart. She currently lives in Hawai'i, on Maui, where she is completing a memoir about her father David Park. 

In the mid-1940's, David Park taught painting at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute, where he became good friends with, among others, fellow painters Elmer Bischoff and Richard Diebenkorn.  Park was sociable and engaging, and his friends were in and out of his Berkeley home, where he lived with his wife and two daughters.  

In those post-war years the California School of Fine Arts pulsed with the excitement of abstract expressionist painting.  But in 1949, Park, self-taught except for one year at Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, took a look at the paintings in his studio and didn't like what he saw.  He loaded his work into his car and took it to the Berkeley City Dump. Back in his studio, free of exposure to the work he'd been doing for years, he found that what he wanted to do was to paint the figure. 

At first his peers couldn't understand his change, and disapproved, but within a few years Bischoff, Diebenkorn and many other painters in the region followed Park's lead and returned to the figure as subject matter. By the mid-1950's, the movement known as Bay Area Figurative Painting was well established, and Park had been invited to join the faculty at the Art Department of the University of California at Berkeley. It was a time of growing recognition, evidenced by one-man shows, group shows, and purchases by significant collectors.  In September 1959, Park's first one-man show in New York City opened as the inaugural exhibition at the Staempfli Gallery.  It was at this time that the Whitney Museum of American Art purchased what has been called a "Park masterpiece," Four Men, a large 1959 oil. 

For a few years Park had been suffering severe back pain, and in late May of 1960 bone cancer was diagnosed, and he was given only a few months to live.  During that last summer of his life, despite extreme pain, he painted about one hundred gouaches, his last work. He died on September 20, 1960.  He was 49.   

Helen Park Bigelow's Lecture on Richard Diebekorn is scheduled for Thursday August 2nd at 7pm. This program is part of the Harwood Museum of Art's exhibition; "Diebenkorn in New Mexico" on view at the Museum through September 9th. The August 2nd lecture is free to Harwood Members & UNM Community, Fee to non members. For more information call 505/758-9826 x 105.


Diebenkorn in New Mexico Symposium

The Harwood Museum of Art of the University of New Mexico presents a scholarly Symposium in conjunction with the exhibition Diebenkorn in New Mexico, exhibition on view at the Harwood Museum through September 9, 2007. The Symposium will be held at the Taos Center for the Arts on Friday the 24th of August from 8:30 - 4:30 pm. This day-long program will focus on providing a  greater understanding of the work created by Richard Diebenkorn during the early 1950s as a graduate student at UNM in Albuquerque, a period which many believe established the foundation for  Diebenkorn's illustrious career.  (right: John Elderfield, chief curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art)

Symposium speakers  include: John Elderfield, chief curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art; Dr. Susan Landauer, curator of the San Jose Museum of Art; Mark Lavatelli, painter, teacher and Diebenkorn scholar; Jane Livingston, author of The Art of Richard Diebenkorn published by the Whitney Museum of American Art; and Gerald Nordland, author of Richard Diebenkorn published by Rizzoli. Artist and co-curator Charles Strong, who conceived this exhibition will moderate the panel discussion that concludes the symposium.  

Fee for Harwood Museum Alliance Members and for non-members. Please call 505/758-9826 x 109 for details or visit www.harwoodmuseum.org for information on the Symposium and Museum Alliance Memberships.  The Diebenkorn Symposium is supported in part by the Thaw Charitable Trust.


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