I have often wondered if contemporary American artists accept the idea of a "point" in their work as being at all legitimizing. Preferring the physical presence of the work to be its own witness. Perhaps it's the legacy of the "semiotexters" in colleges and art academia. Identifying and discrediting as they go forcing 'fabulists! Like David Humphrey to dance clear of any obvious "read".
I've never been entirely convinced by Humphrey's work. I first saw pieces at Deven Golden Fine Art in '99. I always associated it with other artists of that stream who allowed different styles to co-exist on the canvas: like Amy Sillman and Michael St. John but for some reason, despite his deep inventiveness, I got the impression there was a skein of in-jokes there just beneath the surface. Creating a kind of barred way that wasn't allowing me in. A place where meaning was acquiescing to strategy.
But New York is singular in the willingness of its cultural makers to adopt a position and keep it for decades. Their whole lives; no matter what. Phil Niblock, La Monte Young, the Eco artist Peter Fend, and David Humphrey, who now "does" himself like no one else.
He has his own pallette. Dry ice cream and old record cover colours. Really odd admixtures of styles. From a poised depiction of his brilliant wife the painter, Jennifer Coates. To a 3-year old's daubs and comic book Sci Fi strokes. Areas of the canvas where Deleuze's maintenance that Bacon's black negative space has infinitely light trapping weight is inverted so that Humphrey's off-white negative spaces threaten to blast away or erode the image. His sculpturalw pieces when viewed in front of a painting allow you to imagine his alter dimensional stylism is taking over the whole of your peripheral vision. Like Dormammu swallowing Dr. Strange's* "reality"! At times they become so indecipherable that you wonder if there is only connotation and no more denotation to be had here.
I might call at least one of these paintings a failure. But what a glorious one, would that we all had the ovaries to throw it up against a flagpole like that! This show is an unrelenting force!
I do interpret Humphrey's work as a statement in defense of "Pluralism". And to anybody from Kansas, say, who might be reading this and thinks it just so much artspeak or New York posturing... Can I make it very clear? We here in NYC (Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Queens included), we embrace any and all gender manifestations, whatever the race, class and age may be. We accept all kinds of unions and multiple partner denominations; just try not to hurt yourself or others. And, should, at the quantum level something from another dimension slip in, we'll marry that too, dammit!
"Uh, damn right I like the life I live / 'Cuz I went from negative to positive / And it's all...good ...and if you don't know, now you know, nigga, uh." Biggie Smalls
peace, Milree Hughes
*drawn by Steve Ditko
Crossing, 2015 Acrylic on canvas 72 x 60 inches *Courtesy of Fredericks & Freiser, NY.
Mr. Hughes was born in North Wales in 1960, son of an Anglican priest. He began making art on the computer in 1998 in NYC.