For over three decades, Jacqueline Humphries has reacted to predictions of painting’s obsolescence, employing both traditional and contemporary methods to position the medium’s historical binaries—such as authenticity and simulation, handmade and mechanical, and literalism and illusionism—in tight and competing proximity, suspending them from resolution. In her ninth solo exhibition at Greene Naftali, Humphries presents ten new large-scale works, which develop specific compositional devices and materials in dialogue with digital screens, and address new paradigms in visual culture.
The works on view reference technological interfaces through interior frames and communicative icons like the emoticon and kaomoj. With the latter symbols, Humphries integrates literal and lowbrow signifiers of expression, using humor and irony to confront painting’s predicament. In :) (2017), custom-made, laser-cut stencils cannibalize elements of previous paintings as pixelated drips, mechanically applied over literal splashes and blobs of paint, only to be nearly obscured by broadly applied brushstrokes. Stenciled, smiling emoticons and worried emojis punctuate the painting and similarly compete for visibility against the physicality of Humphries’ mark-making. Inhabited by code, Humphries newest paintings are constituted of information, yet produce sensations of painting’s more classical modes.
Images of Humphries’ earlier works are recast in the alphanumeric parameters of ASCII, a character-based image encoding system that dates back to the 1960s. Incisively referencing painting’s fatalistic prognosis, such works resurrect both technologies and paintings of the past. In o://:hdddd (2017), ASCII’s mechanically produced gradients are superimposed onto an already painted surface. Laser cut letters and numbers, applied in thick black paint, aggregate and disperse to represent dark and light, their calculated accumulations reading as gestural marks from afar. i\Ω.. (2017) applies the same technique to a white canvas, endowing the surface with a complex yet minimalist terrain. As with o://:hdddd, its textures and patterns vary with viewing distance. Recessions and reliefs appear to shift, calibrated lines dissolve into irregular forms—the viewer alternately perceives physical facture and optical phenomena as they approach and retreat from the surface.