The Bronsons and Parks were the closest of family friends. David Park and jazz theorist, Bud Bronson initially forged their friendship over a shared passion for music:
[Park] spent many hours attending concerts, listening to recordings and playing duets with his friend Bertrand 'Bud' Bronson. There were jokes about his excessive gusto (a 'little heavy handed') but this was only in contrast to his highly sensitive and discriminating ear (David Park, Newport Harbor Art Museum, The Oakland Museum, California, September 1977 - January 1978, p.2).
Their wives, Mildred and Lydia shared a close friendship as well and the two families often spent vacations and holidays together. Gifts from the Parks to the Bronsons, lot 172 and the following four lots are a testament to the profound importance of the families' longstanding friendship.
A remarkably confident composition, David Park's Forest Trail (1954-1955) is a contemplative and mysterious painting created just at the beginning of the artist's most mature phase of figurative art. This important body of work was created when Park, along with contemporaries Elmer Bischoff and Richard Diebenkorn, tired of the Abstract Expressionist movement that had dominated the late 1940's. Their new California Figurative Art Movement precipitated a return to figurative subject matter while retaining the free and fluid brushwork of Abstract Expressionism.
Central to Forest Trail's composition are three figures who wind their way down a verdant trail. With their backs turned, the figures do not engage the viewer. However, Park's implication seems for us to follow the figures down this path. This is in part accomplished by the extreme diagonal created by the boulder, and partially by the placement of the figures in three extreme levels of depth. With the possibility of our interaction with these figures eliminated, our attentions naturally continue outward to enjoy the artist's remarkable rendering of the shadey wooded scene. Richly blocked out trees of umber, sap green and cobalt are dappled with spots of peach, orange and cream colored light.
It is worth note that Park rendered all elements of his composition with the same brushwork: striations of color on a boulder, hatched greys of a shirt or the fork of a tree are all blocked in with the same confident strokes of color, which together formed his trademark 'mosaic compositions.' In so doing, he gives all elements of the composition equal importance, allowing the picture to assert its own identity:
If I would accept subjects, I could paint with more absorption, with a certain enthusiasm for the subject which would allow some of the esthetic qualities such as color and composition to evolve more naturally the difference is that I feel a natural development of the painting rather than a formal, self-conscious one
(exh. cat., Contemporary Bay Area Figurative Painting, Oakland Art Museum, Oakland, 1957, p. 7).
Park himself stated, "Art ought to be a troublesome thing" (op.cit., p.7) hinting that the viewing experience was not meant to be passive. Forest Trail invites a thoughtful and sensory laden experience from the viewer. We are encouraged to join the three figures in their individual yet inclusive contemplation of the richly painted scenery that is David Park's artistry.
This painting will be illustrated in the forthcoming David Park biography by Nancy Boas.