Richard Diebenkorn's 'Confident Calmness'

‘High Green, Version II,' a lifetime in the making.

‘High Green, Version II,' a lifetime in the making.

Brian Shure, Renee Bott and Richard Diebenkorn work on High Green, 1991 in the Crown Point Press studio, 1992. © Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

 

In 1969 Richard Diebenkorn remarked, “I thought I would continue drawing from the figure indefinitely because for years it was so important in my painting, and when I started this [Ocean Park] series in ‘67, I just stopped, and I haven’t drawn [from the figure] since.”

 

Ocean Park

Starting in 1967, Diebenkorn dedicated more than 20 years to developing his Ocean Park series, making it the largest body of work he produced in his artistic career. Named after the gritty, beach front community in Santa Monica where the artist worked, the images were not intended to be abstracted landscapes of his surroundings, rather they represented something far more personal.

This series synthesized his process, perspective and sensitivities to what was around him. “Viewers are confronted not with their relationship to and place in the universe but with their own existence and relationship in space and time to the painting. Whatever angst the artist may have experienced in making them, the works themselves evoke a confident calmness.”

Richard Diebenkorn at Crown Point Press, Oakland, 1986. Photography by Kathan Brown. Courtesy Crown Point Press © Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

Crown Point Press

The 1960s also began Diebenkorn’s life-long relationship with printmaking. In late 1962 Kathan Brown, the founder of Crown Point Press, got a phone call from Diebenkorn saying he heard about her shop from a graduate student he met while guest teaching in LA. The press happened to be located near his Berkley studio, and he was interested in exploring the process of printmaking.

Regarding printmaking, Diebenkorn considered it “a refreshing change of pace in my work as a whole which in turn may provide new perspectives on it.” Throughout his career, Diebenkorn painted, drew and printed in tandem; all processes informed and enriched the other.

Renée Bott and Richard Diebenkorn working at the Crown Point Press studio. © Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

The first series Diebenkorn created at Crown Point, 41 Etchings and Drypoints in 1964 still featured his figurative and still life imagery. Diebenkorn came back to Crown Point Press in the late 70s to create Nine Drypoints and Etchings as well as Five Aquatints with Drypoint. These minimal, modest size images were black and white, graphic and linear. They were reminiscent of drawings he considered to be “the bones of Ocean Park”.

As time went on, Diebenkorn began to trust the printers at Crown Point Press more, which resulted in larger and more ambitious imagery. The 1980s and 90s brought color and dynamism to the work, and Diebenkorn was partnered with master printers that pushed him to see the magic that could really be achieved with printmaking. After the printers pulled proofs, Diebenkorn would visualize and communicate changes by pinning and collaging cut outs from previous proofs. Diebenkorn set his artistic course to “rightness,” a term he used regularly. He followed his intuition and would reassess and adjust as he went along. The goal for him was visual harmony, yet still allowing for “a sudden, surprising contradiction.” The printers were integral in helping strategize and make the necessary changes to the plate.

 

'High Green, Version II'

Richard Diebenkorn, High Green, Version II, 1992. Estimate $120,000 - 180,000. Editions & Works on Paper. 

The 80s also brought Renee Bott to Crown Point Press. She started as an assistant on Diebenkorn’s Green image, eventually paired with him as a master printer on his future projects including the illustrious High Green.

Richard Diebenkorn’s High Green, Version II is a stunning culmination of a more than 30-year relationship with Crown Point Press and is the last print Diebenkorn made before his death in 1993. High Green, Version II brings together the iconography of Diebenkorn’s famous Ocean Park series with his intrinsic colorist eye and passion for making prints.

 

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