Standing Couple, 1958
David Park (United States, 1911–1960)
Oil on canvas
75 x 56 3/4 inches
Festival of Arts Purchase Fund 1961-11-1
David Park's expressionistic brushwork reflects the influence of artists of the New York School, particularly Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still; from 1945 to 1947 Park visited exhibitions of their paintings in San Francisco, where he lived and worked. By 1949, however, he had tired of what he viewed as the egocentrism of New York School abstraction and returned to figurative painting, while retaining the gestural handling of paint.
In Standing Couple, Park formed the figures' facial features with emphatic smears of black paint, and bluntly described the swimsuits that distinguish male and female bathers, who stand in an undefined, shallow space. Despite the abstract quality of the composition, the artist created the illusion of realistic elements, such as the effect of light, the atmosphere of the environment, and the expressive poses of the figures. Light appears to enter from the right to suggest a sunlit day, and the vibrant blue and green background establishes an oceanside setting. Heavy brushstrokes evoke the breaking of waves on the shore. Despite the everyday subject matter, the figures are heroic and monumental.
Text by Phoebe Wolfskill, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008