Monday, January 09, 2006

Artist of the Week 01/09/06

Note: Rather than make the same tired excuses each time I write about an artist who's more established, let me change the working description of the "Artist of the Week" now to be the artist whose work I've been wanting to write about most recently. Moving forward, I expect it to fluctuate between emerging and better known artists. I also intend to offer at least one specific critique going forward. We'll see how long that lasts (depends on how many icy glares I get, I suppose).

David Humphrey was a star in my eyes long before I ever met him. The first time I realized I knew his work was during a three-person solo exhibition at Postmasters back when it was still in SoHo. What's a three-person solo exhibition, you ask? An exhibition of works where each piece was made by three people, of course. In this instance the collaborative team was nicknamed "SHaG" which stood for [Amy] Sillman, Humphrey and [Elliott] Green, stars all in the New York painting world. I can't find any images from that exhibition, but if you know these artists' work, you can probably imagine how fun seeing their vocabularies overlapping would be.

A few years later, I caught David's 2000 solo exhibition at McKee Gallery uptown. It was (forgive me for saying this David) a difficult exhibition for me. I loved the biomorphic imagery and unapologetic sexuality, but I felt there was something hesitant about the way he was using color at that time. This may be more related to my limited exposure to his work at that time than a sophisticated assessment, but I was still a bit confused (i.e., unable to see through the color). Here's one of the monochromatic images from that exhibition (which just rocks, IMO):

David Humphrey, Entangled, 1998, Oil on Canvas, 30" x 24" (image from
McKee Gallery website)

and one with color:

David Humphrey, Co-Occurring Conditions , 1999, Oil on Canvas, 54" x 44" (image from
McKee Gallery website)

OK, now, with all due fairness to David, it's idiotic to cherry pick to images like this to make a point, but all I'm saying is I was still confused by his use of color in this series. By the time he was making work like the image at the top (part of
CreativeTime's "Dreamland Artists Club" series of murals out at Coney Island), I was no longer confused, but a die-hard fan.

In the interim, I had met David (he's currently represented by the astonishingly strong Chelsea gallery
Sikkema, Jenkins, & Co.) and found him to be a delightfully witty and charming person, which always tends to sway one's opinion, but was not the source of my growing enthusiasm for his work. What I sense had changed, from my POV at least, were choices resulting from the increasing dialog (if I may call it such) between his paintings and his sculptures (more solids passages, more playful palettes, etc.). Here's a shot with one of both from an exhibition at Fredric Snitzer Gallery in Miami (I think...see comments for details on my confusion about this):

Here's another recent painting...

David Humphrey, Babysitter, 2004, Acrylic on canvas, 44" x 54" (from Sikkema, Jenkins & Co website).

And an installation view of his 2002 exhibition (with some wonderful sculptures) at Solomon Projects in Atlanta... where he has a new solo exhibition opening this coming Saturday (thanks w.w. and M.M.):

I've been to David's studio a few times now. As you might imagine, it's a bit like visting Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory...fascinating, delicious, and perhaps just a tad dangerous (for those clueless souls who don't know their own inner demons). Each time I've fallen in love with a new drawing or painting or sculpture, like this one:

David Humphrey, Thanks, 2003, Acrylic on canvas, 72" x 60" (image from Solomon Projects website)


Anonymous w.w. said...

Actually, I'm pretty sure the install shot you posted from Solomon Projects is from Humphrey's last show there from 2002, called Holiday Melt.

I've been gallery mates with David since SP opened in the mid-90s and he's been a role model for me for years. I remember he was making these incredible paintings of ghosts back then and I've been hooked ever since. He's a super smart artist with a great sense of humor.

I'm glad to see him getting props on your site.

1/09/2006 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

do you mean the one credited to Snitzer, ww?

I thought the same thing at first (even though, which I took that image from, credited Snitzer), but then I looked at the floor board in both images. That painting and sculpture are both definitely in the current SP exhibition (unless they're putting up images from a previous installation for the current one), but the floorboard in the first one doesn't exist in the second) all of which now just makes my brain hurt but none of which changes the fact that David is indeed super smart and funny.

1/09/2006 11:17:00 AM  
Anonymous jen said...

Very nice work, I can't wait to see this in person. I'll be at the opening and hope to meet him.

1/09/2006 11:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Mountain Man said...

Ed, great post!!!! YEAH!!!!! But let me clarify, the Solomon Projects show you have is from his 2002 show. His upcoming show opens this Saturday, Jan. 14. So it's not up yet. I am looking forward to it and would like to also mention that this crazy ambitious fellow has not only a show in Atlanta, but a 2 person show with Jeff Gauntt that opens Jan. 27 at Sikkema Jenkins, a project space show at Fred Snitzer opening Feb. 11 and a sculptural installation that opens at Triple Candie on Feb. 26. Consider me a huge fan with a close eye to his intense schedule.

1/09/2006 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Mountain Man said...


Team Shag update: Chicago at I Space opening on March 3.

1/09/2006 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

thanks MM (and ww). Sorry about the misleading info. And thanks for the schedule info...won't miss the Sikkema or Triple Candie openings...only wish I could travel to Miami, Atlanta, and Chicago...I hope David's being sure to record all those frequent flyer miles.

1/09/2006 11:29:00 AM  
Anonymous w.w. said...

Can't wait to see install shots from the new show at SP.

While we're praising David's many talents, I thought the summer show he curated for Feigen was stellar. And I think it was last year's Armory Show (or the year before maybe) where his little wall scuptures with ceramic poodles were the highlight of Sikkema's booth.

1/09/2006 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

David has indeed curated some stellar exhibitions and he's an incredibly talented writer as well...a contemporary Renaisssance man if ever there was one.

1/09/2006 11:50:00 AM  
Anonymous fairy friend said...

Smart, funny, generous, encouraging, I could go on and on listing David's many fine qualities. It's great to see his work featured on your blog Ed! His work is unfailingly weird, absurd, and sometimes ridiculous but often so inventive, beautiful and spot on. It's hard to do this combination well and he does it time and again. I think he deserves more props as a risky painter.

1/09/2006 12:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Guess Who said...

More shameless plugging:

he also has a radio show on WPS1 called Sound and Vision. He interviews artists about what musix they are listening to. Check out the archives at their website.

1/09/2006 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous J said...

Risky, definitely. I think he is a precursor to much of the weirdo figurative painting going on now.

1/09/2006 12:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a crush on him. But he is sadly taken.

1/09/2006 12:14:00 PM  
Anonymous w.w. said...

You can see one of the older paintings, called Passenger's Side (1995), on DFN Gallery's web site:

It's an example of the "ghostly" images I was referring to. Maybe it's just me who thinks they're ghostly.

(Sorry, I don't know how to make it linky - can someone do it for me?)

1/09/2006 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger sloth said...

Totally amazing and risky painter! His paintings & sculptures are psychotic & fun... if he could bottle the stuff, street value would be through the roof. His latest work is just incredible! and a must-see for anyone with a brain & sense of humor.

1/09/2006 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Here's the linky (love that) image in question.

1/09/2006 12:28:00 PM  
Anonymous w.w. said...

Thanks, edward_!

1/09/2006 12:35:00 PM  
Anonymous bambino said...

great post ed :)

and Anonymous "get line" :)

love his work, great person, great personality

1/09/2006 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger Heart As Arena said...

I'm down with W.W. The grooves that Humphrey laid down at Feigen ruled the summer group shows. While so many were slavishly pawing away at that overrated and overreviewed Bellwether group show I found the real excitement around the corner at Feigen. I'm not saying the Bellwether show wasn't good. It just wasn't as interesting, consistent, subversive, or fill-in-the-blank as everybody thought it was.

1/09/2006 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I think you mean "get in line," no bambino? And "HEY!" he's taken...and so are you!!! ;-)

1/09/2006 02:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is a fantastic painting that was linked to. I like that even more than his new stuff.

1/09/2006 06:16:00 PM  
Anonymous martin said...

He had an excellent giant leaping roaring whitey Tiger in Miami, at Basel. That was one of the booths I tried to get back to for photos, but it was too much of a maze for me.

Elliott Green! Another good one.

1/09/2006 06:42:00 PM  
Anonymous jen said...

Wow, Anon & I really can't wait to meet him;0)
But, after reading about his extremely busy schedule, I wonder if he'll be at the Solomon Projects opening...whichs leads me to a quick question that I'm curious it important for an artist to attend all of their openings?

1/10/2006 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He'll be there.

1/10/2006 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

its important to attend one person shows, group shows if you can, but the really huge group shows, not so important, duh.... in europe, not so important to go to the group shows, BUT when you do, you meet people and they usually have nicer dinners and more intimate gatherings there, so its worth the trip. sometime you go out of town for a one person show, and you stand there, not knowing anybody and want to go home. nobody talks to you sometimes, and you wonder, is this the life of the glamourous international artist, walking back lonely to your hotel room, nobody really caring, wandering the streets, reading the herald tribune and doing the crossward, but the shows usually look so good, it doesnt matter.

1/10/2006 07:48:00 PM  
Anonymous jen said...

sometime you go out of town for a one person show, and you stand there, not knowing anybody and want to go home. nobody talks to you sometimes, and you wonder, is this the life of the glamourous international artist,

This is so true...glad to know I'm not the only one...thanks!
And I will look forward to seeing the show and meeting this intriguing artist.

1/11/2006 12:09:00 AM  

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