Ocean Park #73 belongs to the series of Ocean Park paintings that Diebenkorn began in 1967 and developed into an extended series of work lasting over twenty years. Named after a community in Santa Monica, the Ocean Park paintings are essentially abstract paintings infused with a profound sense of light and landscape. Fascinated by aerial views of the landscape, particularly the deserts of New Mexico the flat colors and strong geometry of the Ocean Park paintings owe much to the artist's landscape.
Much of the impetus for the Ocean Park paintings came from the work of Henri Matisse. Having always been acquainted with the work of Matisse, Diebenkorn was however deeply shaken by the Matisses he saw in Moscow and Leningrad while on a visit to Russia in 1964. In particular it was Matisse's remarkable ability to paint works that were happily both abstract and figurative at the same time that most impressed and challenged Diebenkorn. The Ocean Paintings are both a response to this stimulus and a culmination of Diebenkorn's previous abstract and figurative periods.
A 'pure' sense of painting that seeks only to create a dynamic and harmonious balance between color, form and medium, the Ocean Park paintings are dependent entirely on the painter's own sensibility to what Diebenkorn has described as a sense of 'rightness'. "I attempt to make the lines and shapes right and because spatiality is intrinsic to a line-shape continuum, it too must be dealt with--made right. One's sense of rightness involves absolutely the whole person and hopefully others in some basic sense. What is important to artistic communication is only this basic part, but if the artist doesn't make his work right he has no idea what he has left out." (R. Diebenkorn, studio notes cited in The Art of Richard Diebenkorn, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1997, p. 87).
Diebenkorn's adoption of geometric forms and straight ruled lines to some extent reflects the artist's understanding and love of the works of Mondrian. At the same time however, Diebenkorn was anxious to allow the process of creation to be visible. The constant sense of construction, implicit within the geometry of his colored forms is compounded by the artist's deliberate and often painstaking corrections which combine in these works to create a variegated surface. Diebenkorn builds his forms allowing traces of former rejected decisions to become a part of the finished whole. In this way his sense of the 'rightness' of a painting becomes both a demonstrable goal and a manifestation of the work itself.
Large open works that envelop the viewer in a field of painterly colored form, building into a constructed unity that satisfies both the mind and the eye in the 'rightness' of its scale and its proportions, the Ocean Park paintings communicate a pervasive sense of the joy in the creation of his work that Diebenkorn evidently felt in making them. Even as in a work such as, Ocean Park #73 where there is evidence of a previous struggle of overpainting and correction, the resultant form of the completed work is dependent on this careful process of decision for its success. Diebenkorn's revision and corrections generate a sense of substance and his overpainting lends the work an added temporal dimension that gives it a sense of history and enriches both its depth and the sense of the overriding seriousness of its purpose.
Richard Diebenkorn, 1986
Richard Diebenkorn, View from Studio, 1974 Santa Cruz Island Foundation, Santa Barbara, CA