More than a study in portraiture, the paintings of these heads are significant for their access to the mind and hand of the artist. These head paintings are revelatory in a manner like a life drawing where the mark makings become a map of the artist's immediate thought process. It is not a surprise that the subject of the head was so often chosen by Richard Diebenkorn and David Park.  Both painters embarked on the simultaneous exploration of paint and self-identity. The subject of the head, closely cropped, provided an architecture that immediately composed the picture plane into flat patterns where the integrity of their investigations could be memorialized in paint. The decisions made during these investigations reveal much about each artist. Note the consistent all-around treatment of the picture plane. Diebenkorn maintains a similar gauge of brush and consistent pace throughout. He approaches areas of detail with the same gusto and bravado as in the more broad expanses. There is also much risk and improvisation as evidenced by the wet-into-wet paint passages, indicative of a high level of spontaneity over any predetermined compositions. It is exactly why the end result we see now is not a preconceived image but rather a discovered one through a painting process that the artist allowed to happen.  


Featuring Three Paintings from the 1930's
On view by appointment

The first gallery in the current David Park retrospective at the SFMOMA is devoted to paintings from this 1930s period.  Many of the compositional and spatial characteristics of the 1950s paintings are rooted in these works.




Richard Diebenkorn 
Detail: Woman's Head, Blue Background (above), 1963
oil on wood, 14.25 x 10.75 inches
Detail: Man's Head (below), 1958
oil on wood, 5.75 x 9 inches