Richard Diebenkorn

1922-1993, American

Untitled, circa 1951

Welded scrap iron
20.5" H x 41" W x 29" D

  • Provenance: Lez Haas, Albuquerque, NM
    Robert Hooton, Albuquerque, NM 
    Sold: Sotheby, Parke-Bernet, Los Angeles, CA, September 24, 1981, Sale 318, Lot 580
    Private Collection, acquired from the above 
  • Exhibited: Harwood Museum of Art, University of New Mexico, Taos, "Diebenkorn in New Mexico, 1950-1952," June 2 - September 9, 2007, catalogue titled "Richard Diebenkorn in New Mexico," p. 18, fig. 17, pl. 13 (illustrated)

    San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA, "Diebenkorn in New Mexico: 1950-1952," October 13, 2007 - January 6, 2008

    Grey Art Gallery, New York, "Diebenkorn in New Mexico: 1950-1952," January 25, 2008 - April 4, 2008

    The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C., "Diebenkorn in New Mexico," June 21, 2008 - September 7, 2008

    Leslie Feely Fine Art, New York, "Richard Diebenkorn: In Context, 1949-1952," May 6 - June 26, 2010, p. 11 (illustrated)

    Richard Gray Gallery, New York, "Modern and Contemporary Sculpture," September 16 - October 23, 2010

    Nyehaus, New York, (organized with David Nolan Gallery, New York, Franklin Parrasch Gallery, New York, and Leslie Feely Fine Art, New York), "Bella Pacifica: Bay Area Abstraction, 1946-1963," January 11 - March 5, 2011, pamphlet

    Leslie Feely Fine Art, New York, "Recent Acquisitions," October 1 - 31, 2011

    Leslie Feely Fine Art, New York, "Recent Acquisitions," October 27 - November 16, 2012

    Heather James Fine Art, San Francisco, "Richard Diebenkorn," October 16, 2019-February 29, 2020
  • Literature: Mark Lavatelli, "Richard Diebenkorn: The Albuquerque Years," Artspace, June 1980, p. 21, 22-23.

    Gerald Nordland, "Richard Diebenkorn," Rizzoli: New York, 1987, p. 38.

    John Elderfield, "The Drawings of Richard Diebenkorn," New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1988, p. 36, fig. 11.

    Mario Naves, "An Artist's Wild Oats," New York Observer, February 4, 2008.

    Michael O'Sullivan, "The Story Behind the Work," Washington Post, June 27, 2008.

    John Goodrich, "Richard Diebenkorn in Context: 1949-1952," City Arts, May 18, 2010, p. 16.

    Roberta Smith, "Art in Review: Richard Diebenkorn," New York Times, June 25, 2010.

    Jane Livingston and Andrea Liguori, Richard Diebenkorn: The Catalogue Raisonné, Volume Two, New Haven 2016, cat. no. 1112, p. 399 (illustrated).
  • Notes: Richard Diebenkorn is an artist who defies easy classification. He is often associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement, which emerged in New York City during the mid-1940s. He is alongside his fellow artists during this movement, such as Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Barnett Newman, and Clyfford Still. Working in the years that followed the end of World War II, this group of artists produced bodies of work so transformative that New York City effectively displaced Paris as the center of the art world in just a few short years.

    Yet, while Diebenkorn began his artistic career around the same time as the Abstract Expressionist movement emerged, he never lived in New York City. Instead, he was in the Marine Corps from 1943 to 1945, and after the war, he began studying painting at the California School of Fine Art. Following his undergraduate studies, Diebenkorn taught at CSFA for a couple of years, but in 1950 he left to complete a master's degree at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. He later worked in Urbana, Illinois, the San Francisco Bay Area, and traveled in Europe before settling in Santa Monica, where he would produce his highly acclaimed Ocean Park series. Before his death, Diebenkorn and his wife lived in Healdsburg, California.

    As an artist, Diebenkorn was very spontaneous in his work. He sought to bypass aspects of the conscious mind while searching for unrecognized forms and emotions which would inform his work. For his master's degree exhibition, Diebenkorn selected work from the seventeen months of his residency in New Mexico. "Untitled," produced during Diebenkorn's time in New Mexico, is believed to have been created around 1951 ahead of his master's degree exhibition. Having no prior experience with the medium but wanting to try his hand at open for recycled metal sculpture, Diebenkorn sought the help of a fellow graduate assistant, Herb Goldman, to teach him the fundamentals of welding. His contribution to the graduate students' exhibition would comprise sixteen paintings, six drawings, and at least two welded metal sculptures, "Untitled" is one of them. Unfortunately, the other sculpture from this exhibition is presumed lost as its whereabouts remain unknown to scholars.

    After the master's degree exhibition closed on May 5, 1951, Diebenkorn's scrap metal sculpture disappeared into a private collection for the next thirty-eight years. Finally, in 1978, the art historian Mark Lavatelli traced the work's whereabouts to a modest home located on the outskirts of Albuquerque, where the insect-like work had spent several decades affixed to an exterior wall. As Lavatelli would later recall, the sculpture's owner at the time had to use a large stick to help pry it off the wall for a closer look.

    For the past forty-one years, Diebenkorn's "Untitled" has resided in the private collection of Los Angeles-based collectors who acquired the work at auction in 1981. The present work was also included in several museum exhibitions. From October 2007 through most of 2008, the piece was part of a touring exhibit, "Diebenkorn in New Mexico," sponsored by The Hartwood Museum of Art at the University of New Mexico. The exhibition then traveled to the San Jose Museum of Art in Northern California before appearing at the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C. Jay Gates, the Director of The Phillips Collection at the exhibition, noted, "This important exhibition makes clear that Richard Diebenkorn's story has not been fully told until now. The works stand as powerful evidence that he found his artistic voice while in New Mexico."
  • Condition: Overall good condition with oxidation commensurate with age.

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