Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park #79
[The spectator] wants to join the canvas, not in order to consume it aesthically, but in order to produce it in his turn (to “re-produce” it), to try his hand at a making whose nakedness and clumsiness afford him an incredible (and quite misleading) illusion of facility.
Lines drawn alongside lines as if under lines, lines drawn straight up and down and
across, lines angular, lines drawn helter-skelter, lines defining fields in shades of blue like
an ocean (but not an ocean), in a band of yellow and gold like a sunset (but not a sunset).
Lean in here, viewer, where the way out first seems be through windows or doors, before
they turn into ghostly shapes of ships or just some fog on the glass.
everyone can see
the way it’s been built up
layer upon layer
who knows what to call it?
it is not futility
first sullied canvas
he was hoping to paint out
the lingering stains
as gesture piled on gesture
marks what time does
The eye continually wanders as in a labyrinth, false clues at every turn; first a long time
certain of success, certain you’ve read it, and then right into a wall, the only passage
being under; but the game’s been changed. We know certainly it is not the picture of
farm plots or a surrealist beach, but we cannot decipher it, unlock whatever hidden
meaning might be there. It might just mean what non-meaning itself means, the presence
of absence; and it represents the unrepresented.
I first picked out
that single surface, a canvas
drawn and painted on
flat before my open eyes
no illusions of depth
too many details
to reckon them up in words
no sooner noticed
than forgot, the flood of more
coming on the dancing eye
This is a critic’s nightmare: name the colors and make a catalogue. Start with that
somewhat greenish column lower left, the one with the rouge, strawberry reddish line
drawn through it, with the pasty clouds, scrawled uncertain images at the top, the green
under the pressure of the brush and from the power of the wash fading in and out
faint markings, red and black lines
not depicting anything
at all, a Byzantine art
nothing you discern
like any lines composing
a skeletal view
what we know is how cathedrals
wither under erasure
How miraculous if a word appeared, some fishhook to ensnare the thoughts rushing by.
What if in that yellow band (my favorite of the features, my eye always seeks it out) he’d
written words like El Arroyo de los Baños, and then we’d look for twisting blue canals
banked in sunlit concrete, the sky over the San Joaquin toward the western hills. But
before we’d gone far down that road, the sky would have broken into shards, like dry
leaves, down into blue and red stripes in thick parallels divided by hard lines, the canals
would crack, turn gray, and evaporate. Why, then, you’d really wake up.
the only title
that the painter’s given us
what Ocean Park was
south of Santa Monica
a stretch of beach beyond roof tops
in the studio
some worried lines and angles
from the other side, the back
imagined in a mirror
an artist walks up
lays down a long straight edge
on virgin canvas
then besmirches it with hard lines
pushing paint and charcoal in
search the scratches
for hints of hidden palimpsest
not really older
but illusions of time passing
between the painted layers
Charles Tarlton: "I am a retired professor who has been writing poetry full time since 2010. I am especially addicted to emphasis and have published ekphrastic tanka prose in KYSO Flash, Haibun Today, Atlas Poetic, Contemporary Haibun Online, Review American, Ekphrastic Review, and Fiction International."
The Ekphrastic Review
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