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Whatcom Museum to showcase this avant-garde artist with Pacific Northwest ties

This untitled artwork is part of a collection of Richard Diebenkorn’s work now on exhibit at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building, “The Intimate Diebenkorn: Works on Paper, 1949-1992.” The exhibition will be on display through Aug. 19.
This untitled artwork is part of a collection of Richard Diebenkorn’s work now on exhibit at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building, “The Intimate Diebenkorn: Works on Paper, 1949-1992.” The exhibition will be on display through Aug. 19. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

One of the pre-eminent abstract style artists of the 20th century, Richard Diebenkorn (1922-93) produced a range of work with a powerful presence in the avant-garde art scene of the 1940s and ’50s.

A collection of Diebenkorn’s work is now on exhibit at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building, “The Intimate Diebenkorn: Works on Paper, 1949-1992.” The exhibition will be on display through Aug. 19.

Organized by the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, “The Intimate Diebenkorn” presents 52 drawings, watercolors, oils, and gouaches on paper, showing the artist’s stylistic evolution through more than 40 years of his work.

Richard Diebenkorn was an internationally-acclaimed California artist whose work is associated with Abstract Expressionism and the Bay Area Figurative Movement. He earned a reputation for creating ethereal, large-scale abstractions, though he returned to smaller formats in his final years. The artist interpreted landscapes and human figures in a unique way, creating a delicate balance between abstraction and representation.

“We are very excited to host this exhibition from the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, especially at a time when a larger, more extensive traveling exhibition of his work is making its way around the country,” said Patricia Leach, Executive Director of the Whatcom Museum. “Although Richard Diebenkorn is mainly recognized as a California artist, he was born in Portland, Oregon, so it is nice that we can claim him as a Pacific Northwest artist too!”

Diebenkorn relocated to San Francisco as a young child and attended Stanford University and studied studio art and art history. Throughout his career as an artist, as well as an instructor, Diebenkorn’s work evolved from small abstract canvases to large-scale abstract oil paintings. He created many of the artworks featured in the exhibition during periods of living and teaching in New Mexico and California.

Chester Arnold, Sonoma-based painter and curator of “The Intimate Diebenkorn” has noted that Diebenkorn’s artworks “are the works of a modern master.” Diebenkorn’s personal experiences, especially the California landscape, shaped his style, perspective, and career.

Arnold will share more insight and depth into the life and work of Richard Diebenkorn at a lecture in the Museum’s Rotunda Room of Old City Hall at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 23. He will bring aspects of Diebenkorn’s humanity to light, as framed through his own personal experiences as the curator of this collection. The lecture is included with admission and free to museum members.

To learn more about the exhibition visit whatcommuseum.org. For more information about the life and work of Richard Diebenkorn visit the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, diebenkorn.org.

Showing concurrently at the Lightcatcher building is the exhibition, “Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts at 25,” organized by the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in partnership with the Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts.

Christina M. Claassen is Whatcom Museum’s marketing and public relations manager. Reach her at cmclaassen@cob.org.

Whatcom Museum

The non-profit Whatcom Museum is operated by the Whatcom Museum Foundation and the city of Bellingham. The Old City Hall building at 121 Prospect St. and the Lightcatcher Building at 250 Flora St. are open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays. The Family Interactive Gallery, located inside the Lightcatcher, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission, good for all sites in a day, is $10 general, $8 youth (6-17 years) and student, senior or military, $5 children (2-5 years). Memberships start at $50 and include free museum admission.

The museum offers a variety of programs and exhibitions about art, nature and Northwest history. Its collections contain more than 200,000 artifacts and art of regional importance, including a photographic archive. The museum is accredited nationally by the American Alliance of Museums and is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate.

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