Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Diebenkorn & Kitaj Off Ocean Park
"Ocean Park No. 54"
100" x 81" oil on canvas 1972
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
"There is a kind of light on Diebenkorn's stretch of coastline - mild, high and ineffably clear, descending like a benediction on the ticky-tack slopes just before the fleeting sunset drops over Malibu - that is all but unique in North America, and Diebenkorn's paintings always appear to be done in terms of it. It is part of their signature."
-Robert Hughes on Diebenkorn, from "Nothing if Not Critical"
I think of Diebenkorn almost every evening when I step out of my studio for some air and catch the late afternoon light glowing on the horizon. The WWII era hangar at the Santa Monica Airport that houses my studio brings to mind a sense of the American space found in Edward Hopper, who was a major early influence on Diebenkorn. But the sea-light tempers the tight ruled architectural structure with Bonnard-like fluctuations of light and color. Lately, puddles from the incessant rains, mirror and distort the light and color of these moments. The tarmac surface seems to hold past and future paintings for those who have eyes to see. I have been re-reading Robert Hughes essays in "Nothing if Not Critical". And next to my brushes, the book is left open to a page on R.B.Kitaj:
"Because the museum does nothing if it does not strive toward some ideal of visual literacy. Its mission begins from the belief that learning to see is as important as learning to read, and that seeing is not the property of one class. This literacy - a sense of the thickness of art's layer over an insufficiently named world, a knowledge of what alternative images it contains- is part of Kitaj's essential subject matter."
- Robert Hughes on Kitaj, "Nothing if Not Critical"
Buddha Off Ocean Park
72"x36" oil on linen 2005
There is as much Kitaj as Diebenkorn in the atmospheres in my recent work. While studying briefly at the Royal College of Art in London I painted in the small studio space that Kitaj used while he was painting there as a student. Often I can sense a bit of Kitaj's combination of American upbringing and open armed embrace of European art and culture in my own work.
From the catalog of a recent National Gallery, London exhibition:
"For nearly forty years the American-born painter RB Kitaj played a central role in British art. At the beginning of his career he became associated with artists like David Hockney, Peter Blake and others of the so-called Pop generation, but he also formed lasting friendships with fellow artists such as Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud.
Kitaj's Jewish identity in a post-Holocaust world is of central importance to his life and is a theme he has often explored in his work. In 1997 however, three years after the tragic and unexpected death of his wife Sandra Fisher at the age of 47, Kitaj returned to live in the United States and London lost one of its most colourful and influential personalities."
R B Kitaj
"If Not, Not"
60" x 60" oil on canvas 1975-76
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh