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Diebenkorn show postponed again at Orange County Museum of Art

December 29, 2009 |  3:37 pm

Oranges Luis Sinco LAT For the second time, the Orange County Museum of Art has postponed its much-anticipated exhibition "Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series, 1967-1985." Originally scheduled to open in October, the survey of major abstract paintings by the late California artist had been pushed to April after the national economy soured last year.

Now the show has been removed from the museum's schedule. No date has been announced, although OCMA insists the cancellation is temporary.

According to a museum spokesman, the Diebenkorn exhibition "continues to grow in scope and size and therefore, we’re reassessing the entire schedule for its presentation here and at the other venues." The "Ocean Park" series is the most widely admired body of paintings by Diebenkorn (1922-93), who first came to prominence in the Bay Area but who worked in the Ocean Park neighborhood of Santa Monica from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s.

Last summer, OCMA director Dennis Szakacs told The Times that the show would be the most expensive undertaking in the museum's history, with a budget of $800,000. Like many museums buffeted by the economic downturn, OCMA has shaved its annual operating costs (from $5.1 million in 2007 to $3.6 million this year). The exhibition program has been trimmed from 10 to five major shows annually.

A comprehensive Diebenkorn retrospective was organized by New York's Whitney Museum of American Art in 1997, but the "Ocean Park" series has never been the subject of a major survey. The full series includes more than 140 paintings. Number 49 is on view in the permanent collection galleries at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, while Number 131 is included in "Collection: MOCA's First 30 Years" at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

The April slot that had been planned for Diebenkorn at OCMA will now be filled by two shows drawn from the permanent collection -- one focused on recent acquisitions and the other on contemporary photography.

-- Christopher Knight

Photo: Oranges; credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times