Ocean Park No. 52

Accession Number

Ocean Park No. 52

Richard Diebenkorn

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
oil on canvas

81 3/16 in x 81 3/16 in (206.22 cm x 206.22 cm);81 7/8 in x 81 7/8 in (207.96 cm x 207.96 cm)

Credit Line
Purchase assisted by the Friends of the Museum of Art and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

Label copy
March 28, 2009
Ocean Park No. 52 is part of a series of the same name that includes well over 100 paintings. These were made between 1966 and 1988 in Diebenkorn’s studio in the Ocean Park district of Santa Monica, California. Diebenkorn was fascinated with the anonymity and abstraction of aerial vistas and Ocean Park No. 52 was painted just a year after he worked with the United States Bureau of Water Reclamation, studying the agricultural fields, irrigation lines, and land masses of eastern central California by airplane. It is tempting to see in its atmospheric mosaic of fields and grids of color references to the mellow subtleties of the West Coast’s sunlight, hazy skies, tawny hills, and bleached architecture, but the Ocean Park series is about the act of painting as much as any sense of place. Diebenkorn worked by sketching directly onto canvas and then painting, correcting, and scraping away. The visible traces of this process of alteration (called pentimenti) memorialize the artist’s continual process of revision and refinement as he attempted to construct individual chromatic universes in paint.

Subject matter
After he accepted a teaching position at UCLA in 1966, Richard Diebenkorn set up his new studio in a neighborhood in Santa Monica near the beach called "Ocean Park." The local landscape inspired a large cycle of paintings named after the nearby beachfront. There are some similarities among the works in this series, including an abstract consideration of color and form, a focus on the mellow subtleties of West Coast sunlight, and a focus on the painting process itself, which the artist made visible through the layers of paint. Here, the strong horizontal lines at the lower-center and the top of the painting, hint at the oceanside landscape. Yet, the Ocean Park series is about the act of painting as much as any sense of place.

Physical Description
This canvas is saturated in layered paint in shades of muted browns, oranges, ochres, and yellows, and crossed by lines: some dark and some light, some on the surface, some buried beneath the surface color. A bold horizontal line cuts across about a quarter of the way from the bottom. On the right, there are several faint verticals. At the top, two horizontal lines underlap and overlap with two diagonals.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
abstract landscape

Collection Area
Modern and Contemporary

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Abstract (fine arts style)
Lyrical Abstraction
Non-Representational Art
Pacific (regional reference)
aerial views
modern and contemporary art
natural landscapes
oil painting (technique)

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