Critics’ Picks

David Humphrey, Pink Couch, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 72".

David Humphrey, Pink Couch, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 72".

New York

David Humphrey

Fredericks & Freiser
536 West 24th Street
November 28, 2012–January 19, 2013

David Humphrey’s new set of acrylic canvases trade in broad, raw brushstrokes and neatly delineated figures. Nonrepresentational forms alternate with elliptically narrative imagery—an overturned truck, churlish youths, a voyeuristic peeper. The type of coexistence between these phenomena, however, shifts from scene to scene. A foreshortened recession of lounging legs in Kicking Back (all works 2012) ends in an unruly brown smear, while Pink Couch neatly and cheekily corrals its abstraction in a further frame, hung on the wall. Scout’s Break sacrifices spatial coherence altogether, linking two bodies—disparate in scale and situatedness—via the loops of a wide, bristly path. More detached in affect and atmosphere are Hoodies and Cement Truck: In both of these color is leached from the scene’s representations to coagulate in lone pools.

Corpulent solidity frequently gives way to a more improvised exuberance, in which forms loosen. The whimsical swirl of Chimera stands in sharp contrast to the more anecdotal order of At the Door, but even this latter work injects some errant scumbles into its scene, which hover and swirl next to the neat seams of a suggestively illuminated doorjamb. The Red and the Blue makes—as its title would suggest—a subject of pigment itself, by turns thick and thin, expansive and contracted. Some kind of face emerges from the formal tussle, but that pinched visage merges in turn with disembodied fragments. Charged with energy and incident, a hint of anatomy and an unruly abstraction, the composition refuses to congeal absolutely. So too, in a refreshing way, does this exhibition. Like the girl curled and coiled on Pink Couch’s Day-Glo furniture, the show is playful in its recusancy. Humphrey is an accomplished critic in his own right. Yet he has not let any analytic self-consciousness spoil what is a simple pleasure in the stuff of paint, sublimated into the human figure or unfettered and unfurled on its own, aleatory terms.