Sunday, December 6, 2015

Jacqueline Humphries at the Contemporary Arts Center

 There is always something nostalgic about this time of year as old friends and long departed relatives suddenly reappear during the holiday season.  This large solo show of paintings by mid-career New York artist Jacqueline Humphries marks a triumphal homecoming for the Nola native, the daughter of legendary local jewelry designer Mignon Faget. It is also the first show initiated by the Contemporary Art Center's new Visual Arts Curator, Andrea Andersson, a Nola native and former New York-based independent curator. Music buffs may recall her grandfather, Knud Andersson, who led the New Orleans Opera for nearly two decades.

I have long suspected that there was something subversive about Humphries' paintings, but it was never clear exactly what it was until recently. For ages, New York artists were expected to strike a pose of cold ironic detachment based on tediously obsolescent theories, but in a 2009 interview Humphries somewhat blasphemously expressed admiration for "sincerity." Even so, her large silver paintings can look very Warholian at first, with grids like ghostly half tone dots and other durable New York mass media memes. But look again, and peculiar things are sometimes happening just below the surface of works like 0, left, including an oddly confrontational evanescence that fuses digital artifacts and emoticons into reflective melanges. Some, like like (), above (detail) evoke congealed magnetic fields from surreal science fiction, while others hint at a tersely voluptuous sensuality that harks to her Nola roots. If her silver paintings use New York-isms to slyly tweak New York orthodoxy (a well -received gesture if her inclusion in the 2014 Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial is any indication), her black light paintings, top, are joyous gestures of pure rebellion. Here hints at traditional abstraction are blasted into the stratosphere with glowing, super-saturated psychedelic colors more reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix than Mark Rothko. By being deadly serious about not looking serious, Humphries breaks the unspoken rules of the official New York art world, buoyantly challenging its decades-old tedium, while reminding us that carnival is just around the corner. ~Bookhardt / Jacqueline Humphries: Recent Silver and Black Light Paintings, Through Feb. 28, Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528.3805.