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Diebenkorn show postponed at OCMA

December 23, 2008 |  5:00 am

'Ocean Park #36' "Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series, 1967-1985," a highly anticipated exhibition at the Orange County Museum of Art, has been postponed for six months. Originally scheduled to open Oct. 11, 2009, as the museum's fall headliner, the show will be launched April 4, 2010, OCMA Director Dennis Szakacs said.

Billed as the first major museum exhibition of the California artist's most celebrated body of work, the show is being organized by OCMA curator Sarah Bancroft. She has selected about 60 paintings and works on paper representing the full range of the series. Diebenkorn, who lived from 1922 to 1993, gained recognition as an Abstract Expressionist in the early 1950s but soon shifted to figurative painting. In 1966 he moved from the Bay Area to Santa Monica to take a teaching position at UCLA. He set up a studio in the Ocean Park area, where he returned to abstraction as he began the cycle of paintings and drawings known as the Ocean Park works. 

The primary reason for the schedule change is financial, a museum representative said. Like many cultural institutions, OCMA faces challenges amid the economic downturn. The museum's leaders decided that it would be imprudent to present two particularly expensive exhibitions -- "Illumination: The Paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe, Agnes Pelton, Agnes Martin and Florence Pierce" and the Diebenkorn show -- in one year. "Illumination" will appear May 3 to Sept. 13, 2009, as planned. The fall slot formerly assigned to "Diebenkorn" will be filled by a less costly show, yet to be confirmed.

The move will help the museum work out a national tour for the Diebenkorn exhibition, Szakacs said. "We had hoped to fast-track the show, but we have only been working on it for about a year and we need more time to line up the museums that will participate in the tour. A lot of museums that are interested don't have the immediate time on their schedules. If we postpone the show here, we will get it far enough out in the future so that these other great museums can take it."

--Suzanne Muchnic

Image: "Ocean Park #36," oil on canvas (1970). Credit: Orange County Museum of Art