David Park, Woman Reading, 1958, oil on canvas, 44 × 38 1/2 inches (courtesy of Thomas Williams Fine Art)
John Seed interviews Thomas Williams on the occasion of the exhibition The Bay Area School Painters at Thomas Williams Fine Art, London, on view through June 22, 2013. The show includes works by Richard Diebenkorn, Elmer Bischoff, David Park, Ernest Briggs, John Grillo, Joan Brown, Frank Lobdell, Nathan Oliveira, Manuel Neri, and Paul Wonner.
Williams remarks: "There are two aspects [of Bay Area painting] which have particularly fascinated me. The first is the extent to which these artists were written out of the post-war Abstract Expressionist movement by the New York critics such as Clement Greenberg, even though they were deeply involved from the outset. It is now almost invariably assumed that San Francisco was not producing artists from this school until some time in the 1950s, whereas there was a flourishing school in San Francisco from 1946... The second aspect which has impressed itself on the study of that period is the extent to which the San Francisco artists transmitted their discoveries back to the east coast. Edward Corbett, for instance, was an crucial influence on Ad Reinhardt, who shared a house with Corbett in Richmond, CA at the end of the 1940s."
Matthew Ballou looks at Richard Diebenkorn's Ocean Park paintings through the lens of "provisional painting."
Ballou writes that "To get a clear view of Diebenkorn's connection with provisionality one must think about the sense of compositional balance exemplified in the Ocean Park Series. It is a balance that is hard-won yet still teetering on the edge of disarray. Though the works are in some ways locked, they flicker and undulate; these are compositions that don’t always feel as if rightness was absolutely achieved."
Barlow notes that a "facet of this work and this artist that is important to not overlook is what Ocean Park has come to say about Diebenkorn himself. He had a dogged commitment to his own vision of things. He wasn’t belligerent or a contrarian, but he stubbornly followed his own path. In a filmed interview that accompanies the show, Diebenkorn answers a question about who the audience for his work is by stating, 'I paint for an 'ideal viewer.' ' After a brief pause he wryly added, 'And that ideal viewer just may be me.' "
John Seed blogs about the painter Joan Brown and his experiences as her student.
Seed writes: "Brown, in her words and in her art, was uncompromisingly assertive. Her toughness didn't endear her to everyone, but over the long haul it was the quality that distanced her from a difficult childhood and moved her towards the visionary optimism that characterized her final works."
Seed writes: "A Painter's Life offers countless fascinating insights into Park and his development, including revelations about the artists who he was exposed to and influenced by early on. Who knew, for example, that 19-year-old Park had been present at a 1930 lunch given for the visiting French artist Henri Matisse?"
Seed also notes Boas' interesting idea that Park's figurative work was a "moral" reaction to the abstract paintings of Clyfford Still: "By committing himself to the depiction of the human figure, Park created a hybrid art that literally moved the abstract inventions of Clyfford Still, Park's antithesis, into the background where they provided a sense of tone and setting. [Boas suggests] that Still's romanticism and sense of 'nature ecstasy' forms the setting for Park's figure."
Bill Berkson reviews two biographies of painter David Park: David Park, Painter: Nothing Held Back by Helen Park Bigelow (Hudson Hills Press) and David Park: A Painter's Life by Nancy Boas (University of California Press).
Berkson writes that "Read in tandem, [the books] are distinct and complement each other perfectly. Helen Park Bigelow's is a family memoir, in which her father and the paintings of his that mean the most to her are central but not the only active characters... Her responses to the pictures are instinctive and often eloquent... Nancy Boas's book also is sympathetic, though more impersonal, a balanced and analytical account; her passion shows in how persuasively she argues for a wider recognition of Park's importance as more than the locally esteemed leader of the Bay Area Figuratives, which now in any case seems on the way."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.