This painting is one of a series referencing Ocean Park, the beach landscape near Diebenkorn’s California studio. Diebenkorn spent two decades developing this series, in which he gradually moved away from his earlier, more directly representational work. In Ocean Park 115 he evolved a type of abstraction characterized by a geometric division of space, sensuously worked surfaces, and luminous color. Diebenkorn explored new creative avenues in his work while maintaining a clear sense of balance and control. He stated, “My idea was simply to get all the elements right. By that I mean everything: color, form, space, line, composition, what all this might add up to—everything at once.”
Gallery label from 2007.
Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series, begun in 1967, makes general reference to the beachside land- and cityscape of the neighborhood in Santa Monica, California, around the artist’s studio. The series is the work of an artist who synthesized the principal currents of the twentieth century’s most rigorous abstract art (after painting representationally), joined it to a painterly 1950s sensibility, and created a new style with both the seriousness and the decorativeness of his exemplars, and with a gentle but firm sensuousness that is entirely his own. The work uses the components of Piet Mondrian’s mature art, but escapes from the form of geometry that Mondrian had adapted from Cubism to learn more from the less confining structures, and the breathing surfaces, of Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko. But Diebenkorn recomplicates the spareness of those artists’ fields, reintroducing a searching, durational record of the work’s creation.
The influence of another touchstone for Diebenkorn, Henri Matisse, is apparent in Ocean Park 115, as in the rest of the series, in the way the space is divided into flat planes and bands of color. Built up of successive layers of pigment, the painting’s blues and greens shift in their density, invoking a translucent luminosity.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 291.