Fort Worth, TX
Kendal Smith Lake
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Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth Presents David Park: A Retrospective June 2-September 8, 2019

The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth presents David Park: A Retrospective, on view beginning June 2, 2019. Organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and curated by Janet Bishop, Thomas Weisel Family Curator of Painting and Sculpture at SFMOMA, this is the first major museum exhibition in more than 30 years to present the powerfully expressive work of David Park (1911-1960), best known as the originator of Bay Area Figurative art. In the immediate postwar years, Park, like most avant-garde American artists of his day, engaged with Abstract Expressionism and painted non-objectively. In a moment of passion in late 1949 or early 1950, he made the radical decision to abandon nearly all of his abstract canvases at an East Bay dump and return to the human figure, marking the beginning of the Bay Area Figurative movement.

David Park: A Retrospective traces the full arc of the artist's career, from his early social realist efforts of the 1930s to his mature figurative paintings of the 1950s and his astounding final works on paper.

Park lived for most of his adult life in San Francisco and Berkeley. He was a beloved teacher at both the California School of the Fine Arts and the University of California, Berkeley, and he was at the center of a vibrant community of Bay Area artists. The powerful paintings he made in the decade that followed his dramatic departure from abstraction brought together his long-held interest in classic subjects such as portraiture, domestic interiors, musicians, rowers, and bathers with lush, gestural paint handling and an extraordinary sense of color. Between 1958 and 1959, Park reached his expressive peak, reveling in the sensuous qualities of paint to create intensely physical, psychologically charged, and deeply felt canvases. When this fertile period was cut short by illness in 1960 and he could no longer work on canvas, Park transferred his creative energy to other media. In the last months of his life, bed-ridden, he produced a remarkable 30-foot-long felt-tip pen scroll and a poignant series of gouaches.

The exhibition features 114 works displayed chronologically, beginning with his biblically themed watercolors and illustrative scenes of everyday urban life from his early career in the mid-1930s. Subsequent galleries present the artist's Picasso-inspired portraits and domestic scenes from the late 1930s and a series of small, idiosyncratic, surrealist-inflected paintings indebted to Joan Miró. To account for Park's brief but intense engagement with abstraction in the years following World War II, the exhibition presents rare surviving examples of the boldly geometric non-objective paintings Park made between 1946 and 1949 and a cache of abstract "work-sketches" never shown by Park in his lifetime. The balance of the exhibition focuses on the work he created after his momentous return to figuration, commencing with Rehearsal, 1949-50, the first of his figurative canvases to be publicly displayed, and culminating in his powerful large canvases from the late 1950s, such as Four Men, 1958, which harness the full potential of Abstract Expressionist paint handling to the subjects that mattered to Park the most. The final gallery presents the artist's last works, including a digital interactive facsimile of his 30-foot-long Untitled (The Scroll) and a selection of his radiant gouaches.

Companion galleries to David Park: A Retrospective examine the community of influence in Bay Area art at mid-century, in which Park played a leading role. The galleries devote space to figure drawings by Park and members of his artistic circle - including 29 works by Richard Diebenkorn, Elmer Bischoff, and Nathan Oliveira, among others - who began regularly drawing from the model together in each other's studios in 1953.

An illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition and includes an essay by exhibition curator Janet Bishop; an essay by Lee Hallman, associate curator at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; a chronology by Sara Wessen Chang, curatorial assistant at SFMOMA; and additional essays.

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David Park: A Retrospective is organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition is curated by Janet Bishop, Thomas Weisel Family Curator of Painting and Sculpture at SFMOMA.