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Ocean Park #54

Thomas B. Cole, MD, MPH
JAMA. 2013;309(18):1870. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.1596.
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The Ocean Park series of paintings, by the American artist Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993), has been described as a set of frameworks suspending panels of attenuated color. In one of the paintings of this series, Ocean Park #54 (cover), a panel in marine blue is suspended from a post-and-lintel frame in tan, blue, and green, accented with blocks of violet and dark blue. The framing device is like a portal. Most of the paintings in the series have a similar vertical orientation that was inspired in part by Henri Matisse's 1914 painting French Window at Collioure, which consists of three vertical strips framing a dark interior. The most notable feature of the Ocean Park paintings, aside from their architecture, is their unfinished appearance. Diebenkorn's style of composition was to make it up as he went along, amending and correcting as needed, coming to a full stop when he was satisfied with the concept. He saw no point in smoothing out the imperfections; that would be overkill. The rubouts, changes of direction, erasures, scrapes, and faint drips on a Diebenkorn canvas tell the story of the painting's creation. Thin layers of color in Ocean Park #54 allow the false starts to show through, providing a rough idea of the sequence of changes and an estimate of how much time it took for Diebenkorn to complete the painting. The cleverness, modesty, and hand-made appearance of the Ocean Park paintings all contribute to their visual appeal.

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Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993), Ocean Park #54, 1972, American. Oil and charcoal on canvas. 254 × 205.7 cm. Courtesy of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (http://www.sfmoma.org/), San Francisco, California; gift of Friends of Gerald Nordland. © The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, Estate #1469.

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