Thursday, December 3, 2015
Art I'm Looking At: Richard Diebenkorn's Notebooks at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
The sketchbooks contain more than 1,000 drawings that span Diebenkorn's career. He appears to have kept several sketchbooks going at once and to have used them randomly, so that looking at them from page to page doesn't provide a sense of development. Almost none of the pages is dated and the chronological order of the books itself appears to be unclear. Instead, we get a series of snapshots--some finished works, others the simplest outline of an idea. All but one of the sketchbooks are opened and housed in plexiglass cases, so only two facing pages are visible from each. One has been separated into individual leaves and hung in a rack that allows you to see the whole as if turning its pages.
All 29 sketchbooks have been digitized, however. Two large monitors in the gallery allow you to look at every drawing, as well as the various items Diebenkorn left tucked into their pages, and even front and back covers. The digital presentation is available online. Thus, the 29 sketchbooks can be browsed from home, although the pages are slow to load, even with a fast Internet connection.
The Hopper shows the influence of Impressionism, especially in the rendering of the distant cityscape at the left of the canvas and in the use of black (and here, indirectly, the influence of Japan). I particularly enjoy the way the little rectangle of white at the left of the clustered figures interacts dynamically with the white blocks at the far right. Despite the Impressionist influence, Hopper's signature style is already apparent. He was a master at using architecture and human figures to suggest the quiet, almost inaudible hum of distracted humanity.
Both the Diebenkorn and the Hopper exhibits were to have closed February 8, but have been extended to August 22, 2016. The Cantor Arts Center is at Stanford University (328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way, Stanford, California). Free admission.