Southwestern Michigan College Visual and Performing Arts Chairman Marc Dombrosky will be a presenter for the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts’ March 13 symposium, “David Park and the Bay Area Figurative Movement.”
Park (1911-1960) played a seminal role in reviving figurative work in the 1950s, when New York-style abstract expressionism was the rage.
Dombrosky, an SMC professor since 2010 who also directs the Art Gallery, will speak on “Eastbound and Down? From Bay Area to Midwest.” He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in painting from the University of Florida and Ohio State University, respectively.
“For me, growing up in Ohio, followed by Florida where I selected painting as my field of choice while living in Gainesville — all the while being indoctrinated by East Coast painters — I found myself, like Park, heading for the California coast the first chance I got,” Dombrosky recalled.
Dombrosky immediately drove west upon graduating college “to put everything into motion; to drive off into the sunset and then watch it rise anew from the other side. California was — for Park and I both, maybe — mobility, migration, fragmentation, rebellion and newness. Without any real possibilities on the horizon, it was the only possibility.”
Dombrosky’s title refers to Jerry Reed’s title track for the 1977 film, “Smokey and the Bandit.” At the time, selling Coors east of the Mississippi River without a permit was illegal. Burt Reynolds’ Bandit agrees to run beer from Texas to Georgia within 28 hours, Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason) in hot pursuit.
“At the heart of this whole project, for me, is the question of mobility,” Dombrosky said.
The KIA is the only Midwest venue hosting “David Park: A Retrospective,” the first major exhibition in more than 30 years to present the influential artist’s work. The artist’s daughter, Helen Park Bigelow, speaks the night of March 12.
Organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the show presents nearly 100 paintings and drawings spanning Park’s career from the 1930s to his death from cancer at 49. Raised in Boston, diagnosed in childhood with profound vision loss and having just a year of formal art education, Park moved to Los Angeles in 1928.
Called "one of the most art-historically underrated artists of the mid-20th century" in 2019 by The Wall Street Journal, the exhibition illuminates the evolution of Park's colorful painting style — thick brushstrokes exploring contemporary life in portraits, landscapes and interiors.