The show and its catalogue are the work of gallery director Selma Holo's Museum Studies Program under the guidance of USC professor Susan Larsen. It was drawn from the collection of Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson, who, on evidence have been passionate and perceptive collectors of Diebenkorn's works on paper for a very long time. On the walls of the Fisher Gallery this show functions as a miniaturized survey of his oeuvre since the '60s. Somehow it's concentrated focus dramatizes Diebenkorn's fundamental concern with structure.
His West Coast rumination on modernism has taken more than one form. His figurative etchings of the '60s take the cosmopolitanism of a Matisse or Bonnard and anchor it back to traditional American realism, to Hopper and the Ashcan School. The results are relaxed interior scenes of the good life in California, its easy sophistication and underlying anxiety. A girl reclining in saddle shoes brings just a hint of Balthus-like eroticism to suburbia. A walking figure has a vague overtone of the spectral. A more recent self-portrait finds the artist with a double-outline nose that has a bit of fun with Picasso.
But the structure of the etchings is as sober and solid as Piero della Francesca, Vermeer or Cezanne. Those guys don't make jokes. There is also a bit of muffled playfulness about works in Diebenkorn's occasional clubs and spades series. They reflect the artist's childhood fascination with knighthood, chivalry and coats-of-arms. Even when he's toying with these slightly abstract-surreal forms he can't help making them solid as armor. They look like ship's screws and iron orchids.