New York

Richard Diebenkorn

Knoedler & Company

The beauty of Richard Diebenkorn’s small paintings of the late ’50s and early ’60s is inseparable from their aura of resignation. Strangely, something about them recalls the late work of Malevich, of Tatlin, of Rodchenko and Stepanova—work Diebenkom could hardly have known—in which, after the wreckage of their utopian Modernisms, those artists returned to what seems a shockingly traditional form of painting. One might call Diebenkorn’s work, like theirs, painting without ambition, or in any case with no ambition in any sphere other than the most intimate one, a sphere in which art could be, simply, a bulwark against despair. To “see” such paintings at all, one must accept their weakness as a strength: in the most profound sense they refuse to be more than marginalia to a history that refuses them just as firmly.

It is Matisse, of course, who was on Diebenkorn’s mind and not the Russians;

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