Evolution of a Giant

East Bay exhibition explores mid-century work of famed painter Richard Diebenkorn
Richard Diebenkorn
Two from 'Closely Considered.' Left: Untitled watercolor and acrylic on paper, 1964. Right: Untitled ink and charcoal on paper, 1964. Copyright 2014 Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

When someone achieves greatness, it's interesting and sometimes instructive to retrace the steps he or she took in scaling that peak.

For modern art aficionados, that opportunity presents itself in spades with the upcoming 'Closely Considered – Diebenkorn in Berkeley' exhibition and series of programs at a place that helped to elevate art giant Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993) to fame and excellence, the Richmond Art Center.

The exhibition runs September 14 through November 16, with an opening reception September 13.

Diebenkorn is known primarily as a painter, particularly for his Santa Monica-spawned Ocean Park series, one of which fetched a record $13.25 million at auction in 2012.

Before moving to Los Angeles in 1967, Diebenkorn was a leading light of the Bay Area Figurative Movement in the 1950s and '60s while living in Berkeley, occasionally exhibiting work at Richmond Art Center.

Now, the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation has teamed with the Art Center and guest curator Jan Wurm to present 40 of his works on paper from this period along with assorted artifacts and a dozen pieces by other prominent members of the Figurative Movement.

"In his [Diebenkorn's] opinion, his drawings were as important as his paintings, and they informed his painting," said Ric Ambrose, executive director of Richmond Art Center. "Really, his identity is more revealed in his drawings than his paintings...We show the evolution of his work."

In addition to several pieces never before publicly exhibited, the show is remarkable for its personal touch, including examples of the artist's correspondence to the Art Center and notes about work he exhibited there.

There is also a Diebenkorn drawing of a colleague in the last hours of his life (called 'David Park's Last Day'), sketched on the final page of a book by one of Diebenkorn's favorite poets, William Butler Yeats.

For more about the 'Closely Considered' exhibition and accompanying programs, click here.