Yesterday, my painting department was privileged to have contemporary painter David Humphrey as a visiting artist. I first stumbled across one of Humphrey’s paintings, Ike’s Woods pictured below, a few years ago finding it both humorous and strange; and immediately fell in love with the quirky imagery and bright, poppy color palette. Humphrey aptly dubbed a Pop-Surrealist combines varying identifiable painting techniques and styles often inspired by cliché flea market paintings and amateur art. One would think that this mismatched, mishmash of cartoon characters surrounded by abstract expressionist style brush strokes, sitting in an idyllic pastoral scene reminiscent of a Hallmark greeting card wouldn’t work; however, Humphrey somehow unifies these things into a wonderfully strange homogenized painting. His work speaks outwardly to humor and the ridiculous, but after spending time with Humphrey’s paintings deeper psychological and social questions and comments begin to emerge such as, the relationship between artist and spectator, and the psychology of bonding, lovemaking, attachment, and coupling.
“I try to make paintings that look very conventional, which fail to be normal, but you can’t tell why. And maybe their conventionality is trembling at the edge of breaking down or swerving in some unexpected direction. I like inhabiting that position within a theater of roles.”
Humphrey received his BFA from Maryland Institute, College of Art in 1977 and a MA from New York University in 1980. Born in Germany Humphrey grew up in Pittsburg, PA and currently lives and works in New York City. He has shown nationally and internationally and has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Rome Prize among other awards. In addition to art making Humphrey is a published writer, critic at Yale University, and an occasional curator. His book, an anthology of art writing and criticism entitled Blind Handshake was published in 2010. The exhibition Deep Cuts curated by Humphrey and Wendy White is currently on view at Anna Kustera in New York thru March 2, 2013.
Ike’s Woods, 2006, acrylic on canvas, 66″ x 80″
Ike Paints from Life, 2006, acrylic on canvas, 60″ x 72″
Proud Owner, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 44″ x 108″
Pink Couch, 2012. Acrylic on canvas, 60″ x 72″
Ike’s Bridge, 2006, acrylic on canvas, 72″ x 86″
Kitties, 2002, acrylic on canvas, 60″ x 72″
painting not labeled, 2012
Kicking Back, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 54″ x 44″
Wave Watcher ,2004, acrylic on canvas
Porous Surfaces Which Include My Face, 1999, oil on canvas, 54″ x 44″
Blue Hand, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 60″ x 72″
“I think may be this question: how does abstraction and representation mix in my painting? It is a desire to create a kind of narrative of the depiction coming into being.” – David Humphrey