Ocean Park No. 16 (1968) by Richard DiebenkornMilwaukee Art Museum
The palette of pastel colors the artist used for this painting is inspired by the quality of light in Southern California. When the artist, Richard Diebenkorn, moved to Santa Monica from the Bay Area, he painted a series of paintings called Ocean Park, after his neighborhood.
Walls and roads
It doesn’t take much to see walls, windows, and doors (of the artist’s studio?) within the arrangement of vertical and horizontal lines in this painting—as well as the grass, roads, and land of the California landscape.
The painting is both the framing of a room and a way to frame nature, a close-up view and a bird’s-eye view.
Do you, perhaps, because of the lines, see a map? A map defines a smaller place within the context of a larger one. In this way, Diebenkorn encouraged his viewers to look at the world directly in front of them, while keeping in mind that they are part of a much bigger world.
Most art historians consider this X shape to represent a window or a door. Diebenkorn often combined close-up views with bird’s-eye views.
Land and ocean
The green and blue rectangles, referencing land and the ocean, respectively, might bring to mind the view from an airplane. This is Diebenkorn’s bird’s-eye view of the California landscape, alongside the X of his studio window.
Because this painting doesn’t seem to have any traditional images of a neighborhood, you might call it abstract. Diebenkorn had his own definition of the term “abstract” in art:
“All paintings start out of a mood, out of a relationship with things or people, out of a complete visual impression. To call this impression abstract seems to me often to confuse the issue.
"Abstract means literally to draw from or separate. In this sense every artist is abstract. A realistic or non-objective approach makes no difference.”
Ocean Park No. 16, 1968
Oil on canvas
93 × 76 in. (236.22 × 193.04 cm)
Gift of Jane Bradley Pettit
Photographer credit: Diebenkorn Foundation
© Estate of Richard Diebenkorn