New York

Richard Diebenkorn

Whitney Museum of American Art

If there’s one lasting impression left by the retrospective of Richard Diebenkorn’s paintings at the Whitney Museum, it’s an overriding sense of finicky graphic and chromatic tastefulness. And this carefully crafted rightness—almost every Diebenkorn picture seems like the resolution to a family argument pled for by a kindly old father who wants, above all, to avoid any sign of conflict—is what makes the show seem so out of touch with the times. Of course, there’s bad out-of-touch and good out-of-touch: a retrospective that reveals how academic and timid the artist’s work is, compared with today’s adventurous fare, doesn’t make a great case for itself; a retrospective that demonstrates how comparatively decadent art has become since the heyday of its subject is another story. Which is the Diebenkorn show?

Anecdote no. I: An abstract painter I once knew told me that when he was a student he

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