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Ocean Park colors



Ocean Park is the name of the community in which Richard Diebenkorn lived for a good portion of his life and the name to which he gave his greatest sequence of works, a series of mostly large canvasses he painted over twenty years, between the mid-sixties and the mid-eighties.  Many of the fabled Ocean Park paintings are on display at the Orange County Museum of Art through May 27.  I recommend seeing this exhibition--the 22 minute film on the artist alone, assembled by LACMA in the mid-seventies, is worth the ticket.  Above left, an old friend: Ocean Park No. 54, on loan from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  In another gallery is another old friend: Ocean Park No. 109.  No other Los Angeles painter caught the kind of light and layered washed-pastel colors of our beach communities better than Diebenkorn.  Critics keep trying to read these as "flattened landscapes"--that is tempting to do, and indeed the artist did some cartography in WWII--but I think after many years of discernment that they are really patches of colors, drawn from beach air and seaside LA streets, and tied together by the urban grid, which includes phone lines, sketch lines, and the geometries of civic life, even civic life just offshore.  My wife said, "I could look at every one of these for an hour--I want to come back," which is as close to raving about an exhibit as she ever comes.  I get cynical about exhibitions in general, but this is one that got to me too--and I left wondering why nobody has put together a representative part of this fabled series before, especially here in LA.