Jacqueline Humphries, “Full Sheet Green” (2019)
Jacqueline Humphries is known for her large-scale black-light canvases, which she creates with fluorescent pigments that glow in black-light conditions. Now, for a new show at the Dan Flavin Art Institute in Bridgehampton, part of the Dia Art Foundation, Humphries is taking the idea one step further. The New York- and North Fork-based artist, working with objects for the first time, created an entirely new collection specifically in response to Flavin’s own neon works. Humphries began with painting fluorescent pigments into resin, which she then cast in both found and 3D-printed pieces. “Jacqueline’s really thinking about the effects of light on paint and how paint and, indeed, a painting can be a light source in and of itself,” says Megan Holly Witko, the exhibit’s curator.
The result is a ghostly dance of phosphorescence between each object. Seen in a darkened room under ultraviolet light, a battered old sign Humphries found on an East End beach smolders in highlighter pink. Pieces of driftwood, one courtesy of nature and one 3D-printed, radiate a shamanic purple and toxic green. Humphries’ juxtaposition of natural and manmade materials alongside digital objects seems to question our dependence on and simultaneous thirst for escape from the modern-day siren call that is our phone screen. It gleams enticingly but at what expense? The ideas behind it are the show’s most enticing pull: the circular logic to the interconnectedness of analogue and digital and what harmful or joyous elements lie hidden beneath, if we only shine an ultraviolet light on them.
Humphries, who has participated in the 2014 Whitney Biennial and is a fellow for Louis Vuitton's art foundation, first started working on the black-light paintings in 2005 as a way to explore incandescent hues beyond their association with the hippie counterculture that was en vogue when she was growing up in the 1960s. “Fluorescent colors are very powerful, yet they were so bounded by these typical associations—African princess sex goddess, marijuana and magic mushrooms, Jimi Hendrix and The Doors, and that was kind of it,” Humphries told Art News in 2015. “Why not take something like that and see if you can make serious abstraction with it?”
For the artist, the show is also an answer to what it means to be an abstract painter in contemporary times. “[Humphries asks,] ‘How can I take the rules of the game and do something interesting and innovative and fresh with it?’” explains Witko. “She’s been using black light as a way to do that for a long time, and this is an interesting way for her to take it to a different level that she hasn’t done before.” June 22-May 17, 2020, 23 Corwith Ave., Bridgehampton, diaart.org
Photography by: artwork © Jacqueline Humphries. Photo by Jason Mandella/courtesy of the artist and Greene Naftali, New York