San Francisco/Berkeley

Richard Diebenkorn

John Berggruen Gallery

Diebenjorn was a colleague of Bischoff’s in the heyday of West Coast ’40s–’50s art (if you think there was a heyday) and while Bischoff has retained the human figure in his work to this day, Diebenkorn was the landscape painter, even when he became an abstractionist. There’s only a short distance from the Berkeley series (on display at Berggruen) to the Ocean Park series. Now Diebenkom was probably the best painter painter (ya know, tough) around then, and this mini-retrospective is a handsome show. Large areas of vigorously painted blue (sky), green, and brown arabesques (trees, ground), the trailing lines receding and turning (roads into horizons), hints of sun and moon are all integrated with the right amount of contrast, composition and poise. The show is supposed to be “early abstract.” Here, the term might mean the continuation of landscape painting, that slowness to change, the conservatism and safeness that seem to be the earmark of artists who got their start in the ’40s and ’50s. It’s security against danger. Diebenkorn became more analytical but the landscape remains; it’s still pretty much “here I amreacting to the world and expressing how I feel.” These landscapes are “emotional.”

Jeff Perrone