Ryan Serpa Humanities and Social Science
Coloring Around Race: Bay Area Figurative Art and Racial Depiction
My research attempts to examine the roles of race, suburbanization, and region in the context of San Francisco Bay Area art production. Specifically, I will look to the artwork of David Park and Richard Diebenkorn, two members of the prominent Bay Area Figurative School. Bay Area Figurative art developed during the 1950s and 60s, a period of intense development in the Bay Area that coincided with increased migration of Black residents after World War II. However, these developments did not occur on equal footing. Home loan discrimination on the basis of race drastically affected the social and physical landscape of the Bay Area during an influx of Black migrants. Both Park, in his human figural paintings, and Diebenkorn, in his landscapes, utilize color as a way to simultaneously suggest race while eluding outright reference to the reality of racial difference and its socio-political consequences. Yet, conceptions of color cannot be divorced from conceptions of race, a particularly apparent concern considering the ideologies of the Bay Area and the United States at large during the burgeoning civil rights era of the 1950’s and 60’s.