Exhibition

JACQUELINE HUMPHRIES

Ground Floor

Press Release

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Jacqueline Humphries integrates gestural abstraction with the effects of new technologies, exploring how painting can capture and complicate the sensory experience of a screen-based world. Her imposing, large-scale canvases have long equated painting with other media interfaces, subjecting analog formats to a burgeoning set of signs and symbols from our online vernacular.

These latest works—presented singly or linked in multi-panel configurations—feature stenciled motifs of emoticons and emojis, logos, and digitally-enlarged patterns that fill the surface, derived from the spatter of an industrial spray gun or drops of ink from a faulty printer. A monumental work at the gallery’s entrance is pocked with raised flecks of paint, based on computer-generated images of white noise. The brand name Neiman Marcus (in its iconic cursive font) emerges from and dissolves into Humphries’s mottled fields, and its visual instability points to the company’s financial hardships—having filed for bankruptcy at the height of the pandemic, when the work was made. At Greene Naftali, the painting is installed to face an exterior courtyard and seen only through panes of glass, recalling the window displays that fueled consumer desire in a now-defunct stage of retail capitalism, whose giants are falling as a new, algorithmic era of taste-making and commerce takes hold.

Elsewhere, works are blanketed in a fine mesh of dots made by pushing paint through laser-cut templates, often in slithering, wet-on-wet application that impedes their mechanized order. Colors are layered on, scraped away, and impressed into slicks of thickened paint, and the artist’s ample roster of drips can give way to more overt citations of high modernism: Fontana’s slashings, Pollock’s skeins, Richter’s blur. Each of these marks of self-obliteration soon became synonymous with their makers—a conflict not lost on Humphries, whose own practice has examined the ironies of the crypto-signature. Select canvases are tagged with the inventory numbers the gallery assigns to her work, an alphanumeric code that situates painting squarely within the circuits through which it passes.

Humphries describes herself as perpetually on the lookout for “ways to build my conflict about painting into the very act,” and the works on view materially confront, or even embody, the pressurized conditions of the day. The prevailing mood skews toward the ruminative here, and the style of rendering toward deformation; Humphries uses the trappings of our networked existence to weigh how it actually feels to inhabit it. By contorting the familiar glyphs that dominate our digital interactions, she transforms these tokens of standardized affect into vectors of still-vital expression. A low-grade pathos radiates from the jittery optics of her stenciled patterns, and occasionally congeals into visual tropes of B-movie horror—a reminder that, despite perennial claims for its obsolescence, painting itself refuses to die; and that horror may be the genre most bracingly suited to processing the present.

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