San Francisco

David Park

University Art Gallery, U.C. Berkeley

A memorial exhibition of 39 paintings from the last five years of Park’s life, when he was on the faculty of the University of California (1955–1960). Many are from collections of friends, and among them are some that Park would probably have deleted. But there is something of the cult of a personality connected with him, (there was even before his death) that seemingly makes everything he did or said inordinately important here. The sudden burgeoning of what at first appeared to be not much more than a mediocre talent when he was painting goopy abstractions into an astonishingly inventive artist as he turned toward the figure may have had something to do with it.

The University show surveys, with not the best of all possible examples, this burgeoning. Several broadly painted portraits are included. They are penetrating likenesses. The still life and figure compositions range from small genres of interest now only as history, to the big, powerfully brushed, ambiguous figures blurred into the environment with related color, or standing free in shimmering light, which brought him belated fame in the last years of his life. Park admittedly liked ambiguous faces, anonymous people and people with potential. His nameless figures have it—they could pull themselves off the beaches and do almost anything. Whether or not he meant them to epitomize the tremendous contained energy of the masses he never said, but one gets the feeling that they do. He painted them in long, sweeping, multi-colored strokes which gives a sinuous contour to the body and a feeling of flesh on the bones.

Elizabeth M. Polley