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The David Park effect

In 1949, David Park took his paintings to the dump. They were abstract in an Abstract Expressionist vein. With a clean slate, he used what he knew about the push and pull of moving paint around to return to the figure. Made of big, blunt brush-and-knife strokes, his quiet moments marked the beginning of Bay Area Figurative. In 1960, at age 49, he died of cancer.

Almost everyone I know who cares about art and lived in the Bay Area in the second half of the 20th Century considers his work a touchstone.

David Park (Image via)

davidparkeffect.jpgIn the 21st Century, his influence is everywhere, or, as Auden wrote about Yeats, “he has become his admirers.”

Julia Kuhl, for that quality of living in inside a head and stuck at an impasse, for the inadvertent tenderness.

juliakuhlpark.jpgPeter F. Gross, for tactile intensity. (Anonymous Russian poet: “Can I help it if your bones rattle in my heavy, tender paws?”)

petergrosssalvation.jpgMark Takamichi Miller – for bodies that own the air around them, without noticing it, and for big color.

marktmilllerbluefigure.jpgMette Tommerup – What is the opposite of observant? A David Park figure.

mettetommerupfire.jpgBrian Burke – stones in the river, lumpen proletariat  in the sky.



  1. the book, David Park, Painter Nothing Held Back, by his daughter Helen park Bigelow is beautiful and illuminating.

  2. A great Artist.
    Thanks for reminding me.

  3. A biography of Park is coming out next spring, from UC press.

  4. As I understand it, an early 50’s traveling exhibition of Oscar Kokoshka at the Fine Arts Museum inspired not only Park, but other Bay Area painters to delve into figurative abstraction — despite the emerging prominence of New York School AbEx.

  5. You’re so right about David Park. When thinking about Bay Area Figurative, he’s the goods.

  6. I love that people know my father’s work. Now, all of you, find the newly released biography of him, David Park, Painter, by Nancy Boas. A terrific partner to David Park, Painter, Nothing Held Back, by his other daughter Helen Park Bigelow.

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