I think of carpets from the East and Japanese woodblock prints. Both weavers and print designers were delighted by the introduction of garishly bright (although often fugitive) aniline dyes in the 19th century, while taste among Western scholars and collectors of both rugs and Japanese prints has always shunned the brightest colors.
The reproductions in the Legion of Honor show are based on pigment traces and remnants of patterns found on the statuary. Scholars seem to be fairly confident their recreations are close to reality, but freshly painted, they seem garish and cartoon-like. Perhaps they would have quickly weathered into something much more subtle. Straight from the factory, so to speak, they are startlingly bright. I was reminded of my feelings about new tennis shoes in childhood--bright white shoes I'd always try to quickly dirty by hopping into muddy puddles. A small but thought-provoking show. A final display with samples of some of the pigments found on ancient statuary and modern methods of detecting their presence was particularly engaging, I thought.
I was familiar with the cubist-influenced work from photographs, but this was the first time I'd seen any of it in person. These paintings rely on bold primary colors and often use heavy, black linear elements to separate areas of color. Untitled (The Magician's Table) of 1947 shown here is typical. I struggle to see the later Diebenkorn in these. They are harder, more grid-like, and less subtle than the later work. Diebenkorn's best work I think derives its strength from a sublime balance between the dyadic and the static, from a generally (although not always) muted palette, and a subtle color sense. In the cubist-influnced works of 1946 to 1948 the artist focused on creating bold effects relying on stark contrasts and largely unmodulated, mostly primary colors. Seeing a grouping of them at once is jarring.
|Catalog raisonné No. 795|