Artist Proof: Curator Jan Wurm, “Closely Considered: Diebenkorn in Berkeley” at Richmond Art Center

by admin on November 10, 2014

As the exhibition, Closely Considered: Diebenkorn in Berkeley draws to a close, there seems to be a quiet moment – a pause between becoming/being and the finite has been.

photo-3It was several years ago that I sat in a student’s studio looking at her paintings, repeatedly turning to gaze over my shoulder at a Richard Diebenkorn lithograph she had hanging on her wall. Having Diebenkorn present every time we met to talk about painting or drawings from her drawing group added a degree of awareness to our sessions, a deeper mindfulness to the critiques.

Over the course of several years I attended monthly committee meetings in the home of another artist. Each arrival and departure was met by the Diebenkorn etching beside the door. Other committees, boards, and art activities brought me into artists’ and collector’s homes where the works of Richard Diebenkorn overlooked the dining table or rested in the bedroom. These works were not just a part of art collections, not just hung in a public arena. They were tucked into private spaces where a private dialogue persisted. An intimate exchange was happening with these artworks and the individuals who held them central to their daily lives.

The impulse of this exhibition was to show work which influenced artists and to render the intimate quality of drawing which resonates with the individual collector living with the artist’s hand in shared quarters, shared thought, shared viewpoint, shared light and spirit.

The request to artists to lend their artworks was met with immediate affirmation. And the artist/art historian/collector living with works by Diebenkorn’s friends- Elmer Bischoff and David Park and Frank Lobdell and Nathan Oliveira- all were eager to lend to an exhibition which would reflect the close ties these artists all felt at that historical point. To ask the master printers Kathan Brown and Renee Bott who worked with Diebenkorn to share their prints and experiences was to receive profound views into the artist’s work process. And to ask Gretchen Grant, the artist’s daughter to speak was to be graced with the most generous support of this project.


In regard to the impact of this exhibition, it is striking to see the emotional response of viewers. They have been moved to spend time and then return for multiple viewings, musicians have wanted to bring their instruments and play in concert with the drawings and the Del Sol String Quartet has improvised in response to individual work, poetry has been written, and of course, artists have come to draw — even the model has been inspired to greater reaches. With a cup of coffee or glass of wine in hand, people have sat down to be with Richard Diebenkorn’s work. They have had the time and place to come to read his work in the Richmond Art Center.

This exhibition presents many objects which had never before been shown publicly. This artwork has rested with the family and friends of the artist, it has inspired the teaching and painting practices of the generations who have followed. And as this exhibition draws to a close, these drawings, both bold and delicate, will return to their homes and studios where they will continue to exude a quiet power and influence.

Jan Wurm
November 10, 2014