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Richard Diebenkorn – An Artist’s Dwelling (10)

Richard Clifford Diebenkorn Jr. was born on April 22, 1922 in Portland, Oregon. His birth helped to “Keep Portland Weird” as they say. His family moved to San Francisco, California, when he was two years old. He was a wunderkind and was continually drawing from the age of four onward. He worked in hippie-dippie, liberal and idealistic locales ranging from New York City, Woodstock, New York to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Urbana, Illinois and Berkeley, California. Diebenkorn served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1943 until 1945 but was stationed in Virginia and Hawaii during those years. His “wartime” work was comprised of vaguely humorous, dark charcoal sketches. He used the time he had while stationed to tour important museum collections and to internalize favorite traits and styles of artists such as Hopper, Matisse, and Gorky.

Richard Diebenkorn in Studio


 Richard Diebenkorn in his studio by Manitoba Museum of Finds Art

Richard Diebenkorn in his studio by Manitoba Museum of Finds Art
Richard Diebenkorn Negatives or Polaroids
The many emotions, phases and figurative positioning of Richard Diebenkorn via Eye-Likey.

Once the war was over, he moved back West and came to define the California school of Abstract Expressionism of the early 1950s. The field of art was only just “invented” in the 1940’s, in New York City and was still a burgeoning field. Interestingly, for a modern artist, Diebenkorn embraced art’s academic institution, both as a student and teacher, holding numerous professorships all over the Midwest and West Coast. He even studied under the G.I. Bill.

In 2008, when the Obamas first were looking to update the storied White House art collection to include modern art and work by minorities and women, they approached The National Gallery of Art.  A large-scale painting by Diebenkorn titled “Berkeley No. 52” was in the mix.

A painting from Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series.

A painting from Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series is in this neutral master suite. The interior designer, Douglas Durkin reinvented this San Francisco apartment and allowed it to be dictated by the art: “The interior design is about serving the collection.” Image via Architectural Digest.

Sheila Bridges in Elle DecorA Victorian townhouse  in New York City gets a museum worth update by Sheila Bridges. Artwork in the living room includes, from left, a photo by Mark Heithoff and prints by Richard Diebenkorn and Sonia Delaunay; the zebrawood cocktail table has a stainless-steel base.Image via Elle Decor.

Untitled work by Richard Diebenkorn. Photography by Scott Frances

Playing with architectural right angles, this many-rectangled room features an untitled work by Richard Diebenkorn. Photography by Scott Frances. Image via Architectural Digest.

Room & Board - Diebenkorn

Abstract artist Richard Diebenkorn’s work was an exploration of form, color and poetic metaphor. He combined landscape influence, aerial perspective, and a private, calligraphic language into a dynamic style that engages and excites the viewer. Framed Diebenkorn work “Ocean Park 116″, 1979 via Room & Board.

Ocean Park Series 23, Diebenkorn

Patsy Tarr in front of ‘Ocean Park Series 23’ by Richard Diebenkorn in the living room. The bronze coffee table is by Alberto Giacometti. I’ll take one of each please! Image via New York Social Diary.

Diebenkorn’s compositional strengths gather around distinct, sensually drawn lines. Many of his series feature overlapping, translucent and scraped colors and paint. A process that is discernible to both artist and viewer. Leaving one to wonder what exactly is underneath each layer. It’s hard to describe the artist’s breadth of work the artist created – they are both muted and bright, mechanical and organic, representational and abstract. Some are small, claustrophobic and intimate, others grid-like and huge, echoing with emotion. Regardless of style, his works are powerful investigations between the interaction of space, landscapes, color and light. All somehow yearning and lonely, hearkening on the confusion of a single atom in a large universe.

Richard Diebenkorn in his studio at Main Street and Ashland Avenue in Santa Monica, ca. 1970–71. Photo by Richard Grant. Courtesy of the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation and Richard Grant

Richard Diebenkorn in his studio at Main Street and Ashland Avenue in Santa Monica, ca. 1970–71. Photo by Richard Grant. Image from the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation and Richard Grant.

Diebenkorn c. 1980's

Diebenkorn c. 1980’s via Eye-Likey.

Diebenkorn by Lyon

Richard Diebenkorn  by Fred Lyon, 1958. Image via 1stdibs, here.

Richard Diebenkorn

The “Ocean Park” Series Via Lisa Call.

Over the years his palette changes: flesh tones and grays are replaced by kitten-tongue pinks and blues, and then by deeper and darker contrasts of yellow, poppy orange and grass green. “The idea is to get everything right—it’s not just color or form or space or line—it’s everything all at once.” —Richard Diebenkorn

How can you live inside the whitewashed, soft pastel, multifaceted, and transient world of Richard Diebenkorn? Take heed:


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Ben-Day Dots – An Artist’s Dwelling (9)

The Ben-Day dots printing process, named after illustrator and printer Benjamin Henry Day, Jr. and is similar to Pointillism (Think of  Georges Seurat‘s The Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte and how it changes from an amalgam of tiny dots to a fully shaded image based on one’s proximity to the canvas). Depending on the effect, color and optical illusion needed, small colored dots are closely spaced, widely spaced or overlapping to create the illusion of shadow, color, and dimension. These dots differ from the printing process in newspapers (ever notice those little dots on the edges of a page) – those are halftone dots or dot gain – and differ from the Ben-Day dot in that they come in many sizes, circumferences, spacing and diameters. Ben-Day dots are able to express an image while all dots on the page remain the same size.  Most people are familiar with Ben-day dots without even realizing. Why? The simple answer is Western-style comic books from the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Puma 917 – Popart Pack – Roy Lichtenstein

Hi! I am a Ben-Day dot, all the circles above are the same size!

Hi! I am a Halftone dot, I help to create images with dots of different sizes. 

Pulp comic books used benday dots in primary colors to inexpensively create the secondary colors such as flesh tone. The dotting technique was also an inexpensive way for artists and printers to create shading and depth. Ben-Day dots were considered the hallmark of American pop-artist Roy Lichtenstein, who enlarged and exaggerated them in many of his paintings and sculptures. In addition to appropriating comic books’ melodramatic content, Lichtenstein manually simulated the Benday dots used in the mechanical reproduction of images. One is not supposed to actually “see the dots” in images however, in Lichtenstein’s paintings the dots are over-sized and a central tenant. In this way, the painter is taking something robotic and manual (and hidden) and forcing to be the organic, man-made focus of the canvas.

 Roy Lichtenstein, Drowning Girl, 1963

The artist himself explains, “I was interested in the fact that the cartoon faces and so forth were so unreal and that we took them, generally for realistic. If you go through the magazine, the girl looked pretty in the picture, you know. Then when you really look at what you’ve got—black lines and red lips—that there isn’t anything in this picture that’s real. I was interested in say, the style of, say, a pretty girl in a comic book, or a hero, whatever it was manufactured out of a kind of idealism as to what people should look like, modified by economies of the printing process.”  There is also a dark-humor inherent in Lichtenstein’s ability to make-fun of a character’s death, or the dramatic narrative of a comic book, by oversimplifying it in large format.


Comic books and printing techniques are often very focused on properly recreating a human character by using mechanical means. However, I am more interested in how these “dots” can recreate the oeuvre and warmth of a living space. In Interior Series by Roy Lichtenstein the idea of a “home” is explored and mocked. The prints of the Interior Series are banal domestic environments inspired by furniture ads he found in telephone books. The Interiors are based on advertisements, most of which Lichtenstein cut from the Yellow Pages – further challenging the idea of and blurring the lines between “low art, commercial art, and high art”.


Photographer Laurie Lambrecht worked as a part-time assistant to Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein from 1990 to 1992, helping him to inventory his studio in preparation for his 1993 retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan.

The Interiors, one of the artist’s major final series, portray colorful magazine spreads of rooms for purchase. With the artist’s usual dry wit, they depict domestic spaces, occasionally occupied by Nudes from his other late series. his body of colorful paintings and prints reflects the excess of the 1980s. I was lucky enough to view one of these LARGE format paintings in person at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and let me tell you they are massive, mural sized pieces. They are almost the size of the room they are trying to portray and give the effect of actually being in a real room (which is incredible seeing as though they are all on a 2d plane). They hit you in the face like Whaam!

La Sortie by Roy Lichtenstein. Image found HERE.

Image found HERE. 

Roy Lichtenstein’s Interior with Skyline. I spy a Saarinen design.

Wallpaper with blue floor interior by Roy Lichtenstein. Image found HERE.

Modern Room by Roy Lichteinstein. Image found HERE. I spy mid-century modern and an homage to Warhol.

The Den by Roy Lichtenstein. Image found HERE.

Image from Roy Lichtenstein: Interiors, by  Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Fitzpatrick, Dorothy Lichtenstein printed by Hudson Hills, 1999., pg. 58

The Living Room by Roy Lichteinstein. Image found HERE.

Roy Lichtenstein – Interior with Red Wall – lot 47 – $7,026,500, est. $8 to 12 million via ArtNet. Roy Lichtenstein’s 10 foot tall Interior with Red Wall (1991), as seen above, sold to a telephone bidder for $6.2 million ($7,026,500 with fees) against a pre-sale estimate of $8 million-$10 million. I spy lots of Knoll inspired design items. Zap! Bang! Whoosh!

So how can you live in this mechanically produced Ben-Day dot world of excess, consumerism, pop and color? Have no fear! Zing! Swoosh! Zap! Hint: stick to CMKY or RGB tones, meaning Yellows, Reds, Green, Blue, and other primaries. Look here:


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Studio Visit

Diana Kurz is a naturalist and figurative painter based in Soho, NYC. She was born in 1936 in Vienna, Austria. Kurz explains, ” My parents and I came to the US via Italy, Switzerland, England (where I learned to speak English) and Ireland. Because of the large body of work I have done on the subject of the Holocaust, I think it is important to mention that we were forced to flee Vienna in 1938, and that although we came to the United States when I was four years old, the events of WW II directly affected my life and childhood. Family history and my parents’ generosity in raising two of my orphaned cousins, survivors of concentration camps, as their own children instilled in me an awareness of the importance of social justice and caring for others.” To read a more in-depth biography, reprinted from Veteran Feminists of America, go HERE.

Diana Kurz and her mother in Europe when she was about 2 1/2 or 3.

Diana with a hip, mod, Sassoon inspired pixie cut in her Paris studio in 1965.

And later in her Soho studio – one of the lucky few to find these hidden Soho loft gems in the 1970s (before the area became the trendy, commerce center it is today).

Like in the Wizard of Oz, we just went from Black & White to Color! This is Diana today standing in front of one of her paintings. Look a that necklace!

She has exhibited her work extensively in solo and group shows nationally and internationally and her work is in many distinguished private and public collections including the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, the Rose Art Museum, Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien in Austria; The Jewish Museum of Vienna; Brooklyn Botanic Garden; Hudgens Center for the Arts, GA; Savannah College of Art and Design, and Yad Vashem. Among the numerous awards she has received are a Fulbright Grant in Painting to France;  New York State Council on the Arts CAPS Grant; American Center Residency in Paris; Austrian Federal Ministry of the Arts/VCCA Artist-In-Residence in Vienna;.Atlantic Center for the Arts Residency. Kurz has been on the faculty of distinguished art schools including Pratt Institute, Queens College, Cleveland Institute of Art, Virginia Commonwealth University, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, SUNY at Stony Brook, University of Colorado in Boulder, and Philadelphia College of Art (now known as University of the Arts). She has a Bachelor of Arts cum laude degree in Fine Arts from Brandeis University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Painting from ColumbiaUniversity.

John in the Studio, oil on canvas, 57″ x 68″

Ann in Striped Dress, oil on canvas, 72″ x 51 1/2″, Collection of Rose Art Museum, Massachusetts

Women painters were rare in the 1960’s and so the best compliment she would ever receive at the time was “that could have been painted by a man” (How horrible)! Although it might not show at first glance in her works, Kurz studied the compositions of Piet Mondrian at great length. Her canvases are heavily influenced by the the exploration of lines and color composition.

Silver Spring Monkeys, #2, Monotype, 6″ x 8″

The Hudson River Downtown Study #2 ,oil on paper on canvas, 7″ x 10″

I have had the pleasure of meeting Diana on several occasions – we talked over cookies and tea just last week! We first met during my time at Columbia University while I was the Project Manager for an amazing endeavor called “Art Cart: Saving the Legacy”. Enough on the history, now for a present-day studio visit:

Alternate uses for Cento Tomato Paste. 

Not shown in the photo, the other kitty and an adorable lap dog – DIXIE!

A detail. 

What inspires you to succeed and create? What do you need in your office or workspace so that you can be successful?  I have a garden gnome given to me by my friend Sonja that has been in every apartment in which I have ever lived. It travels with me, and is always lurking in the corner, helping me to conjure ideas!