Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Interview with Sarah Bancroft , Curator of "Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series" at The Orange County Museum of Art

Left to Right: Richard Grant, Gretchen Diebenkorn Grant, Phyllis Diebenkorn, and Exhibition Curator Sarah C. Bancroft. Photo Colin Young-Wolff

"Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series" is the first major museum exhibition to explore the artist’s most celebrated series created from 1967 to 1988. Recognized as a leading West Coast Abstract Expressionist in the 1950s, Diebenkorn turned his attention to figurative painting in 1955 and achieved equal success in this alternate style. In 1967 he returned to abstraction, and during the next twenty years would forge one of the most compelling and masterful bodies of work of the 20th century: the Ocean Park series. 

Sarah C. Bancroft joined the Orange County Museum of Art as curator in May 2008. In addition to Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series, Bancroft curated the recent exhibition Two Schools of Cool, and organized the 2010 California Biennial. In 2009 she curated Video Work by Gao Shiquang and Chen Qiulin at OCMA as part of the Ancient Paths, Modern Voices China Festival, organized by Carnegie Hall and the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and she coordinated OCMA’s presentation of the exhibition Carlos Amorales: Discarded Spider. Bancroft previously worked at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, where she co-curated James Rosenquist: A Retrospective (2003) with the late, great curator Walter Hopps and coordinated an international masterpiece exhibition from the permanent collection that traveled to Rome and Tokyo. Bancroft received her MA in the history of art from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London in 2000. Just prior to moving to Orange County, she spent six months traveling from Stockholm to Rome conducting PhD research pertaining to the tour of James Rosenquist’s monumental painting F-111 through Europe in the mid-1960s. Her area of specialization is modern and contemporary art from the 1950s to the present.

Sarah Bancroft talks to me about Richard Diebenkorn, The Ocean Park Series and Diebenkorn's role in the development of art in Los Angeles and contemporary painting.

Why Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series?

Diebenkorn's beloved and certainly most celebrated series--The Ocean Park Series--has never had a comprehensive museum exhibition. It was time! And, OCMA has a history with the artist: our precursor (The Pavilion Gallery) was the only west coast venue of the artist's first retrospective in the mid-60s. We are also blessed to have one of the magnificent Ocean Park paintings in the permanent collection.

Diebenkorn was one of a few artists who were able to go back and forth between abstraction and figuration. How do you think his figuration period, which ended when he returned to Southern California, helped in the development in the Ocean Park Series?

For Diebenkorn, I think the most important factor is that he *was* comfortable switching between the two, representational and nonobjective work. He didn't mind whether the figurative or the abstract work was in fashion in his community or the "art world" at large, he was true to his own desires. For instance, when he had started painting figuratively in the 1950s, after achieving acclaim as an abstract expressionist on the West Coast, it was shocking to many that he would paint in a representational fashion seen as old fashion or out of mode. Of course, he soon proved his doubters wrong when he achieved equal acclaim as a Bay Area figurative painter. Similarly, when he began painting the Ocean Park works a decade later in the 1960s--while others were developing conceptual practices, performance practices, artistic practices using new and unusual materials and formats (plastics, video, etc.)--it was seen as shocking or old fashioned to paint large abstract canvases again. Well, he didn't care, he was happy to do his own thing, and the Ocean Park work became his most well known body of work. He was working independent of fashion, and it stood him in good stead. It was his forthright independence more than his commitment to either figuration or abstraction that prepared him to develop the series.

Richard Diebenkorn
Ocean Park #79, 1975
Oil on canvas
93 x 81 in. (236.2 x 205.7 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and with funds contributed by private donors, 1977
©The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn
Image courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Ocean Park Series refers to a section of Santa Monica, California. Were they intended to be landscapes?

No, the series was simply named after the area where his studio was located, in the neighborhood of Ocean Park.

 When organizing the show, what was the biggest challenge in preparing and curating the exhibition?

Each week, month and year (because a large exhibition like this does take years), your focus changes, so there's never one thing. Negotiating the loans of the art works from private and public collections is one of the most important challenges, and takes a lot of time. Thankfully, I love it! It's an endurance sport, you're in it for the long haul with a project like this.

While you were researching the Ocean Park series, was there anything that surprised you about Diebenkorn’s painting and the Ocean Park series? Was there something you did not know before?

Diebenkorn is known as a colorist, for his delicious palette, sensitivity and sensibility with color. Yet, when I looked at images of all the works he produced in the series, I was surprised by a number dark works produced in the 1980s. Works that were black, grey, grisaille, dark blue, and were rarely seen or discussed. But, there you go, that's classic Diebenkorn! Always doing something, creating something unexpected, just when you thought you knew what he was up to. He works against your expectations and does it well!

Richard Diebenkorn
Ocean Park #27, 1970
Oil on canvas
100 x 80 in. (254 x 203.2 cm)
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of The Roebling Society and Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Blatt and Mr. and Mrs. William K. Jacobs, Jr.
©The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn
Image courtesy the Brooklyn Museum

There [was recently] the Getty initiative called Pacific Standard Time, where institutions all over Southern California celebrated the art of Los Angeles and Southern California (The Orange County Museum of Art was one its participants). Although your Diebenkorn show was not part of that initiative, how do you think the Ocean Park Series and the Art of Richard Diebenkorn contributed to the development of Los Angeles art?

Diebenkorn was one of the many significant artists who made a career here in Southern California in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and made a national and international impact. (He was collected broadly across the United States, and exhibited nationally and internationally). His work and that of other artistic explorers really put Los Angeles on the map as a creative center. It remains a place where students come to study with their artistic heroes and remain to continue their artistic practices, many going on to teach as well. So, it's not only a vibrant and diverse community of artists who live and work here, it is a community of artists who teach younger generations (as Diebenkorn did) and that is tremendous.

As a follow up to that question, Sister Wendy Beckett called Richard Diebenkorn the greatest Los Angeles artist. Would you agree?

You gotta love Sister Wendy! I saw her at the Chicago Art Institute once, and loved her pure passion and engagement with the art work. I think Sister Wendy would agree that depending on what she is looking at at the time, her preference may change. I am in love with the Ocean Park works, with Diebenkorn's facility and nuance and courage and commitment to his vision. Just as I can't commit to having one favorite color or a favorite flavor, I cannot commit to ONE "greatest" or best artist. Amongst the best? Without a doubt, Diebenkorn is one of the most significant artists of the 20th Century, and not just in LA, I mean significant nationally.

Richard Diebenkorn
Ocean Park #24, 1969
Oil on canvas
93 3/4 x 77 1/2 in. (238.1 x 196.9 cm)
Yale University Art Gallery, The Twigg-Smith Collection, Gift of Laila and Thurston Twigg-Smith, B.E. 1942
©The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn
Image courtesy Yale University Art Gallery

As you walk chronologically from his first Ocean Park painting to his last, there is a development from an organic landscape to a hard edge abstraction, did Diebenkorn give any indication of why he developed the series this way?

He developed each work individually in an intuitive, improvisational fashion. I think the series developed along the same lines.

Although he made a few drawings of the view from his studio window as well as a number of drawings and prints of clubs and spades that are the exceptions to the rule during this time, the Ocean Park Series was not representational. Diebenkorn was quite adamant that the Ocean Park paintings and drawings were not landscapes, although people sometimes interpret them that way. He was, however, quite sensitive to the light and the environment in each place he worked, and I think he said it best: "I see the light only at the end of working on a painting. I mean, I discover the light of a place gradually, and only through painting it." (He said this in 1987, near the end of the series). It's the largest body of work he produced, and also the longest period of time he worked on one series.

Final question, and this one is about the Orange County Museum of Art and the California Biennial. You curated the last California Biennial. What is next for you as a curator? And is there any news you would like to share about the next biennial?


I'm currently working on the layout and various details for the next installation of the Diebenkorn exhibition, which opens at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. this summer. I'm very much looking forward to bringing the show to the East coast.

Dan Cameron, our new Chief Curator, is organizing the next biennial set for 2013. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what he develops! He's sure to bring a new energy and vision to the biennial and OCMA.

Richard Diebenkorn
Ocean Park #138, 1985
Oil on canvas
49 1/2 x 48 1/4 in. (125.7 x 122.6 cm)
Private collection
©The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn
Image courtesy the Estate of Richard Diebenkorn

Richard Diebenkorn
Ocean Park #43, 1971
Oil and charcoal on canvas
93 x 81 in. (236.2 x 205.7 cm)
Collection of Gretchen and John Berggruen, San Francisco
©The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn
Image courtesy the Estate of Richard Diebenkorn

Richard Diebenkorn
Untitled, 1975
Acrylic, gouache, and pasted paper on paper
11 3/4 x 8 1/2 in. (29.8 x 21.6 cm)
The Grant Family Collection
©The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn
Image courtesy the Estate of Richard Diebenkorn

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jean Tinguely: Rotozaza II at Museum Tinguely, Basel

On the occasion of the exhibition “Under Destruction“, the Museum Tinguely in Basel presents Jean Tinguely’s kinetic art machine “Rotozaza II”, a device to destroy bottles. “Rotozaza II” was created in 1967 by Jean Tinguely on the occasion of the Congress “Vison 67: Survival and growth. Second World Congress on Communication in a Changing World” at the Loeb Student Center of the University of New York. The Museum Tinguely reactivated “Rotozaza II” for the exhibition “Under Destruction” and in addition presents various films and documents about Jean Tinguely’s further destructive works: “Homage to New York” (1960), “Etude pour une fin du monde” (1961) and ”Study for an End of the World” 1962.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Alice in Wonderland at Tate Liverpool

Alice in Wonderland at Tate Liverpool is the first exhibition of its kind to explore how Lewis Carroll’s stories have influenced the visual arts, inspiring generations of artists. Curators Gavin Delahunty and Christopher Benjamin Schulz takes us around the exhibition.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Daniel Cummings at ACME Gallery, Los Angeles, California

Daniel Cummings

Drawing, Painting, Sculpture
March 17 - April 21, 2012 

100% JUICE, 2011
oil on canvas
96 x 84 inches

Elysian Park, 2011
oil on canvas
96 x 84 inches

After the Studio, 2011
oil on canvas
84 x 78 inches

Sonia, 2011
oil on canvas
78 x 60 inches

Installation View

Untitled, 2012
ink on parchment paper
11 x 8 1/2 inches

Untitled, 2012
ink on vellum
11 x 8 1/2 inches

6150 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, California 90048

T: 323 857 5942
F: 323 857 5864

Regular Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 11am-6pm 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Brucennial 2012: Harderer, Betterer, Fasterer, and Strongerer

They did it again: After 2010, the art collective The Bruce High Quality Foundation once more challenges the Whitney Biennial with the Brucennial, and the 2012 edition is “harderer, betterer, fasterer, and strongerer”. The Brucennial beats the Whitney Biennial easily when it comes to the amount of paintings per wall. In “Petersburg hanging” style, the pop-up space in New York City’s Bleecker Street presents works of unknown artists next to those of famous ones like George Condo, David Salle, and Damien Hirst. This video documents the opening reception of the Brucennial, including art, flying T-Shirts, free beer, a special appearance of James Kalm and finally, a greeting into the future.

The Bruce High Quality Foundation and Vito Schnabel: The Brucennial 2012. 159 Bleecker Street, New York City, USA. Opening reception, February 29, 2012.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Rosson Crow "BALLYHOO HULLABALOO HABOOB" at Honor Fraser, Culver City, California

BALLYHOO HULLABALOO HABOOB is Rosson Crow's second solo exhibition with the Honor Fraser Gallery. Exploring the intimate psychological and emotional dimensions of nationalistic collective memory, Crow creates a series of works that take as a point of departure the exuberance and sobering aspects of past and recent gilded eras. Known for her theatrical and lush paintings that often feature decadent interiors, this new investigation marks a shift in the artist's artistic process, tensely negotiating representational depictions and mnemonic interplay in painting. Rather than reproducing imagery associated with particular temporal and locational circumstances, the artist taps into mythologizing narratives, personal memories, and familial anecdotes to execute a psychoanalytic excavation of historical periods.

From bleak Dust Bowl towns to celebratory tickertape parades, Crow's paintings are emblematic of American growth and decline. The exhibition's title in part implies the pitfalls of such self-congratulatory excitement. In the tickertape canvases, the skewed perspectives and atmospheric maelstroms of staccato brushstrokes push to a near-abstraction. Emptied of figures, these works only obliquely refer to specific historical references, and often contain little narrative coherence in terms of space and structure. In representing the actual event so abstractly, the attention no longer focuses on what is depicted, but rather the feeling of a distinctly American bravado and celebratory energy that teeters on the verge of disorder and chaos. The show's title also connotes the cyclical nature of American frenzy and loss with "haboob" (Arabic for huge sandstorm), which refers to both the Depression's Dust Bowl and the recent massive dust-storms of the southwest. Working with a much darker palette, these paintings chart the quiet forlorn mood that accompanies economic obsolescence.

I absolutely loved this show. Rosson shows a mastery of both color and composition with the use of black, browns, and whites with images derived from the past.Her earlier works used deep colors with graffiti texture that populated the canvas with images of both past and present cultural icons that resonate a sense of decay. The images in this show display an uneasiness. Rosson's new paintings walk a tight rope between American optimism and Contemporary pessimism that leaves the viewer with a sense of deep contemplation. I left with the sense that Rosson leaves the question open and allows the viewer to draw its own conclusion. A definite must see. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Picasso and Modern British Art

A major new exhibition at Tate Britain, Picasso and Modern British Art which explores Picasso's extensive legacy and influence on British art, how this played a role in the acceptance of modern art in Britain, and the fascinating story of Picasso’s lifelong connections to and affection for this country. Curator Chris Stephens shows us some of the highlights.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Yayoi Kusama at the Tate Modern, London UK

The nine decades of Yayoi Kusama's life have taken her from rural Japan to the New York art scene to contemporary Tokyo, in a career in which she has continuously innovated and re-invented her style. Well-known for her repeating dot patterns, her art encompasses an astonishing variety of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, film, performance and immersive installation. It ranges from works on paper featuring intense semi-abstract imagery, to soft sculpture known as "Accumulations", to her "Infinity Net" paintings, made up of carefully repeated arcs of paint built up into large patterns. Since 1977 Kusama has lived voluntarily in a psychiatric institution, and much of her work has been marked with obsessiveness and a desire to escape from psychological trauma. In an attempt to share her experiences, she creates installations that immerse the viewer in her obsessively charged vision of endless dots and nets or infinitely mirrored space.
At the centre of the art world in the 1960s, she came into contact with artists including Donald Judd, Andy Warhol, Joseph Cornell and Claes Oldenburg, influencing many along the way. She has traded on her identity as an "outsider" in many contexts - as a female artist in a male-dominated society, as a Japanese person in the Western art world, and as a victim of her own neurotic and obsessional symptoms. After achieving fame and notoriety with groundbreaking art happenings and events, she returned to her country of birth and is now Japan's most prominent contemporary artist.
This is a varied, spectacular exhibition of a truly unique artist. There has never been an exhibition of this size of her work in the UK and this is an unmissable opportunity for both Kusama fans and those new to her work.
See this interview and preview of her retrospective at the Tate Modern in London, UK.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Whitney Biennial 2012

The 2012 Whitney Biennial is the seventy-sixth in the ongoing series of Biennials and Annuals presented by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. This year’s Biennial, curated by Elisabeth Sussman and Jay Sanders, presents painting, sculpture, installations, photography, dance, theater, music, and film from artists at all points of their careers, and provides an overview of the current state of contemporary art in America.

Protests outside, performances inside: For the first time, the entire fourth floor becomes a 6,000-square foot performance space for music, dance, theater, and other events. The Whitney Biennial also offers a wide range of public programs. The 2012 Whitney Biennial runs from March 1 through May 27. Some programs continue through June 10, 2012.

This video provides you with impressions from the VIP Preview of the 2012 Whitney Biennale at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Highlights include performances by the artists Dawn Kasper, and installations by Sam Lewitt, Cameron Crawford, and Oscar Tuazon.

Whitney Biennial 2012, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York / USA. VIP Opening Reception, February 28, 2012.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ali Smith and Christopher Davidson at Mark Moore Gallery, Culver City, California

Mark Moore Gallery
5790 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
Tel 310 453 3031
Fax 310 453 3831
Gallery Hours:
Tuesday - Saturday 11-6, and by appointment daily

Ali Smith makes her second major solo show with Mark Moore Gallery. Smith constructs elaborate micro and macrocosms through a delicate balance of chance and intention- simulating the complex balance found in organic structures. Often drawing from studies on paper and collages to create her large-scale compositions, Smith has continued to evolve her idiosyncratic, highly personal language of motifs and forms that are at once fluid and open.

Historically, Smith's elaborate undulations at once recall the whimsy of Gaudi architecture, the romance of Baroque ornamentation, and the intricacy of Art Nouveau. In this new body of work, she allows her canvases to evolve and unfold over time – the compositions vying for space within kaleidoscopic dimensionality and inversion of planes. With her emblematic vibrant palette, she manipulates jarring angles, soft curves and intricate nooks to unearth abstract terrains and surreal forms. Oftentimes, the fragmented forms collide and layer against a deep space, forming puzzle-like composites of the paint's diverse malleability. Smith's inquisitiveness about awkward and unexpected beauty becomes manifest in richly hued steeples, veins, scales and tendrils of lavish paint, which converge into alluringly obscure and impetuous anatomies.

Her simultaneously calculated and uninhibited investigation of equilibrium is parallel to that of her medium, and forges an optic tension that is both unsettling and seductive in its enigmatic composition.

Mark Moore Gallery is pleased to announce an inaugural solo show of new works by painter Christopher Davison in the Project Room; an exhibition that will also act as Davison's first one-person exhibition in Los Angeles. Featuring a selection of Davison's trademark small paintings, Jackanapes will also debut several large-scale works; a significant departure for the artist.

Mining the subconscious for evocative imagery, Davison meanders through garish dreamscapes rife with fantasy, phantasmagoria and myth. He seamlessly entwines delicate ink lines with pools of dense gouache to create compositions versed in both printmaking and painting; a hazy ambiguity also articulated through his sundry figuration. With a single work's infrastructure encompassing as many as twenty-five other original compositions, Davison's creations are as layered as the stratums of his source material. Fragments of primitivism, realism and absurdism are wed in a visual stream of consciousness that spans the graphic surrealism of Odilon Redon and the playful non-sequiturs of Max Ernst. In exploring the sublime depths of the latent mind,Davison demonstrates a contemporary mastery of synesthesia that grapples with intrinsic desire, terror, hope and lust in its most primal forms - a Rimbaudian narrative that celebrates the nonsensical allure of human psychology and mortality.

Davison received his MFA in printmaking from the Tyler School of Art (PA). He has been included in exhibitions in New York, Miami, Copenhagen, Philadelphia, Boston, Rome, Los Angeles and Brussels. His work can be seen in the public collections of the Rose Art Museum (MA), University of Alabama (AL), Museum of the Hague (Netherlands), and the Frederick R. Weisman Foundation Collection (CA). He lives and works in Philadelphia (PA).

An Interview with Katja Seib

  Katja Seib No Title 2020 Oil On Canvas 20.3 x 20.3 cm / 8 x 8 in Credit: © Katja Seib, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London. Photo: Elon Schoe...