06/29/2012 04:37 pm ET

'Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series' Opens At Corcoran Gallery Of Art (PHOTOS)

Diebenkorn Ocean Park Series

WASHINGTON -- Although you may never have heard of Richard Diebenkorn, fans of the American abstract painter can be a fantastically devoted bunch. Some spend fortunes on plane tickets flying around following their favorite works from one major gallery to another.

Touring the San Francisco-area neighborhoods where he lived and painted "constitutes a sacred pilgrimage" for many devotees of this "cult figure," according to art professor and critic John Seed.

But this mania is not without reason. Diebenkorn's works, many of which will be on display at the Corcoran Gallery of Art from June 30 through Sept. 23, could make devotees out of even the most hardened skeptics of abstract and contemporary art.

Diebenkorn, a cigar-chomping former Marine who became a pioneer of American abstract expressionism who died in 1993 at age 70, produced sweeping, summery canvases of fabulous color and strange lines.

Cool blues and greens shoot through with electric pink, purple and yellow make perfect summer viewing, and you might have the urge to jump into a pool after you leave the exhibit.

The Corcoran, the only East Coast stop for the Diebenkorn retrospective, has devoted much of its airy top level to displaying the dozens of paintings in the exhibition.

When the artist's widow, Phyllis Diebenkorn, visited earlier this week, she said it was as if "the paintings were made for this building, and the building was made for these paintings," according to a curator at a media preview.

"Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series" opens at the Corcoran Gallery of Art on June 30 and closes Sept. 23. The gallery will be offering a range of activities related to the retrospective, including a "photo safari," yoga sessions, cigar box painting and poetry readings. There is free admission to the whole museum in July and August on Saturdays