When it comes to abstract painting, it’s darn-near impossible to top Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series, a survey of which is on view now at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington.
Each painting in the series — which is made up of over 140 paintings and more than 500 works on paper — is made of many layers of built up layers of paint, excavated layers of paint, charcoal, gesso and more. One of the things that gives the Ocean Parks their sense of monumental ethereality is Diebenkorn’s process: Each canvas in the series seems both effortless and intensely worked-over. Quite a dichotomy, that.
Several years ago, the Hirshhorn asked its conservation intern Ana Alba to take a look at Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park #111 (1978), which is in the museum’s collection. Alba noticed that a complex pattern of lifting cracks extended over most of the painted surface. Alba studied the painting to find out what was going on… and before long she was traveling all over America to examine Diebenkorn Ocean Park paintings to try to learn more about how they were made and whether this cracking was a widespread problem.
Alba has now examined more than 90 Ocean Park paintings. While there’s no entity that keeps track of these things, it’s reasonable to conclude that no conservator has studied more Ocean Park paintings than Alba, who is now a conservation fellow at the National Gallery of Art. This spring Alba presented her research on the Ocean Park series at the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works’s annual conference in Albuquerque. In addition to hearing Alba on this week’s Modern Art Notes Podcast, you can find more information on her research here and here.
This week’s Modern Art Notes Podcast is all about Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series. Alba is the second guest on the program, and she details her research into the Ocean Park paintings and explains how serious this cracking problem is — or isn’t — across the entire series. The program’s first guest is ’Ocean Park’ exhibition curator Sarah Bancroft.
To download the program directly, click here. To download or subscribe to The Modern Art Notes Podcast via iTunes, click here. To subscribe to The MAN Podcast’s RSS feed, click here. To see lots of images of the works discussed on the show, click here.
Image: Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park #111, 1979. Collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington.