Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Perspectives, Jacqueline Humphreys at the CAC

Jacqueline Humphries, a native New Orleanian now living in New York City is back in town with her latest exhibition at the Contemporary Art Center. The artist is showing exclusively new works, created for the twenty-first century, including large abstract compositions on the first floor and a collection of her black-light paintings on the second floor.
The home-made metallic pigment mixed from aluminum powder results in Humphries's shiny silver signature found in the five paintings downstairs. Generously applied in the background of Alpha, Alpha1 and Alpha4, the "non-color" blends with green, violet or pale blue hues, while rows of black dots fill the foreground. Delicate abstract black drawings float between the two layers, bringing a narrative to otherwise monotonous compositions. The action is initiated by the viewer who activates the works when walking by. The shifting reflection of the light on the silvery coat brings life to the paintings, and the calligraphic patterns become alive with the changing perspectives. Two paintings complete the display, large canvases with the same silvery effect but more abstract expressionist than pop with their sharp lines scratched in the paint. The same concept is involved in the layout of the black-light paintings displayed in the Lupin Gallery upstairs, however the technique differs. This time, ultraviolet light activates fluorescent paint, producing psychedelic colors glowing in the dark. An awkward atmosphere fills the gallery due to the mixed message sent by the conventional display of works aligned under the spotlights and the playful brash colors fit for a Kenny Scharf's Cosmic Cavern.
The combination of Pop art, Op art, Minimalism, Abstract Expressionism in Humphries's works results in a confused message and the mixture of low and high art remains stale, lacking energy and fun.  Humphries's attempt to catch the light with the festive medium falls short of its goal with the large black dots hindering a possible visual adventure. In 2009, Humphries stated in an interview that "Post modernism is supposed to be all about appropriation and cynicism... why not appropriate an attitude of seriousness." Seriousness is taking over her black-light paintings lined up along the walls and transforms them in a conventional display of flashy works.
In the post modern era, visual artists are faced with a question: is this the end of painting? The exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in London in 2013 The Show Is Over, gathered artists looking for an answer. Humphries experimenting with new media found her language but delivers a message that stays superficial.

photographs by the author:

"Alpha3", 2014
"Untitled", 2014
"Untitled", 2015