June 3, 2008

David Park: Sidelong awareness, immune to the skepticism of intense, central focus

In the San Francisco Chronicle Kenneth Baker reports that the work of David Park has "begun to have a restorative impact, rewarding in its viewers a humanistic taste discredited equally by avant-garde theory and by a degraded mass culture. Park died at 49 in 1960, but even then, long before art assumed the strange forms it has taken recently, he saw his commitment to humanity as a subject as a reparative effort, following his detour into abstraction. He wanted to reconnect painting to its forgotten moral function, as he understood it, of distilling individual experience into shareable essences. The exhibition of Park gouaches and drawings at Hackett-Freedman is weighted toward his final years. With cancer gnawing at his life, Park gave up oil painting for gouache, a less forgiving medium better suited to the economy of expression his work had been driving toward anyway. Just look at how much a few fat strokes accomplish in 'Man in a Rowboat'(1960) or 'Seated Man' (1960). In the latter, the red stripes of the man's shirt give a more distinct impression of presence than his facial features. The washy blue area at the upper right defines the void over the figure's shoulder, but it also doubles - at a different scale - as part of an intruding facial profile. Like so many Parks, 'Seated Man' evokes sidelong awareness, immune to the skepticism of intense, central focus. By an irony peculiar to modern experience - if we find corroboration in philosophy - we ought to trust our loose, bodily sense of human company more than our habits of scrutiny. The unique evolution of Park's style and his preoccupations left him positioned to express this understanding in handmade images. Do not miss them." Read more.

"David Park: Works on Paper 1930-1960," Hackett-Freedman, San Francisco, CA. Through June 28.

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