Real Things


Do you see the subtle little splashes of oil that start at the center of this painting and drip down to the lower right of the canvas?

Sometime in 1950, Diebenkorn had a brush full of linseed oil, paint and turpentine in his hand, and for some reason, in a swooping motion (I imagine) he brought it down on raw canvas. It splashed, and he left it.

I've been fascinated with this painting (which is in the permanent collection at the DeYoung in San Francisco, BTW) for years. While the picture itself has some excellent qualities, it's the capture of that motion which I love. The physicality of making that mark is completely obvious, and Diebenkorn isn't afraid to leave it there. When I see this, I am transported to his studio, to that moment where he made that movement, it's an experience.

Lately, I've become hyper-aware of the tactile nature of "making" a painting. There is something achieved in the physicality of it that is so satisfying. The texture of the canvas, the smell of the solvents and the oil, the movement of the materials as they react. These all happen in little moments, and the painting becomes a time capsule containing something unique. This doesn't speak to its uniqueness in style, aesthetic virtues or it's quality, of course. That stuff is up for debate. But, it is a physical object that can't be re-made. I can take a photo, and duplicate it, but it's not the same. There is only one original. Just like this Diebenkorn, that moment when he splashed the canvas only happened once and will never happen the same way again.

Real live art is a refreshing break from our increasingly digital existence. I love looking at artists work online, and I appreciate how work can be so easily shared by a more expansive audience than ever before. But, nothing compares to walking up to some art experiencing it physically, in shared time and space.

It will transport you.

Untitled, Richard Diebenkorn, 1950