Empty Beach

The Modern's Diebenkorn exhibit makes it OK to hate abstract art

So where does Diebenkorn's stuff fit into this big picture? He lacks the visceral hooks of his contemporaries--the frenetic anxiety of Pollock, the gloomy depth of Rothko, the violence in de Kooning and Motherwell--the very thing that makes the opaqueness of an abstract painting give way to a sense of substance. Frankly, because Diebenkorn's later abstracts, although highly personal, were all about his intellectualizing life matter, reducing its vibrancy for his own clinical report, their resonance just doesn't, well, resonate.

These days, we hang glorified wallpaper thanks to the pioneering work of abstract painters. Yet Diebenkorn's paintings come off like the glorified wallpaper it spawned. Its pleasantness isn't what makes it dull. Its lack of universality makes it dull. So if you go see the Diebenkorn exhibit, don't worry about seeing what he did.

Forget the bathtub. Trust me, it ain't there.

And another thing...
On Saturday, March 14, the Angstrom Gallery held an opening party for a show of collaborative works by Daniel Johnston and Ron English. The space filled with culture hounds eager to meet the Austin artist-musician Johnston, an icon in the indie-rock and lowbrow-art spheres. New York pop-artist English has taken 30 of Johnston's sketchy gestural drawings and made an interpretive painting of each in his surrealist style. After the opening, the crowd moved to Bar of Soap to watch Johnston perform a rare set of his disjointed, engaging tunes. The party was a one-night event; the show will re-open April 3 and run through April 25. For info, call (214) 823-6456.

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