CHARLOTTE PARK (1918-2010)
Charlotte Park, whose significant contribution to the emergence of abstract expressionism in the 1950s has only recently received full recognition, was born in Concord, Massachusetts in 1918. From 1935 to 1939 she studied at the Yale School of Fine Art in New Haven, Connecticut. During World War II she worked for the Office of Strategic Services in Washington, DC, where she met her future husband, James Brooks. She moved with him to New York City in 1945 and studied privately with Australian artist Wallace Harrison, who also became a mentor to Brooks. After visiting their friends Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner in East Hampton, Brooks and Park soon found a home and studio of their own in Montauk. After their studio was destroyed by a hurricane in 1954, they moved their cottage to Springs, where it became their full-time residence. Park died there in 2010.
Although Park started as a proponent of Cubism, by the 1950s she had developed a more lyrical idiom, suggesting the organic contours of natural forms, coupled with a bold color palette. Throughout the 1950s she exhibited regularly at the prominent Stable Gallery in New York, and was included in the Whitney Museum of American Art Annual Exhibition of 1953. She taught at the Dalton School in New York City in 1951, and at the Museum of Modern Art, New York from 1955-57. Her first solo exhibition was held at the Tanager Gallery in 1957.
Notwithstanding her recognition as a first-generation member of the abstract expressionist movement, in the 1960s Park withdrew from the art world, emerging again in 1973 with a solo exhibition at the Elaine Benson Gallery in Bridgehampton, NY. For the next twenty years her work was included in numerous group exhibitions on Long Island and in New York City, as well as “Seventeen Abstract Artists of East Hampton: The Pollock Years, 1946-1956,” at the American Cultural Center of the United States Embassy in Paris in 1979, which traveled to the Zabriskie Gallery, New York, in 1980, and to the William Benton Museum of Art, Storrs, CT, and the Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY, in 1981.
In 1979, Guild Hall Museum in East Hampton held a solo exhibition of Park’s paintings from the 1970s, which were also shown in 1980 at the Ingber Gallery in Manhattan. The following year the Louise Himelfarb Gallery in Water Mill, NY presented a two-person show of recent work by Park and Brooks. In 2003 the Parrish Art Museum hosted “Three East End Artists,” featuring Park alongside Dan Christensen and Allan Wexler as three influential artists who have lived and worked on eastern Long Island. The renewed interest in her work in the 21st century has led to solo exhibitions at the Spanierman Gallery in East Hampton, Spanierman Modern in New York City, and most recently at the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center in East Hampton.
Examples of Park’s work are in the collections of the Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, NY; Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, NY; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; and the Telfair Museum of Art, Savannah, GA, as well as numerous private collections. Her estate is represented by Spanierman Modern, New York.
(BROOKS PARK HERITAGE PROJECT)