For art history major Ryan Serpa '17, color is everything.
While researching pioneering figurative artist David Park for his thesis, nothing has been more powerful — or accurate — than viewing Park's work in person. Serpa received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, funded by private donors, that enabled him to get an up-close read on the paintings in museums and archives, including the Smithsonian.
"I never would have had the funds to travel, nor the time to dedicate to the work, without this opportunity," says Serpa.
Bay Area figurative art arose in the 1950s during a period of rapid development and changing demographics, particularly an influx of black migrants. Serpa proposes that Park used color to subtly suggest race, while also eluding outright reference to it — impossible, considering the segregation laws at the time. To Serpa' knowledge, he is the first person to pinpoint this potential thread of inquiry, an extraordinary accomplishment for an undergraduate.