New York

Ralph Humphrey, Armanda, 1959, oil on canvas, 72 × 60".

Ralph Humphrey

Garth Greenan Gallery

Ralph Humphrey, Armanda, 1959, oil on canvas, 72 × 60".

By the time Ralph Humphrey (then in his fifties) came to my attention in the late 1980s, he was already known as a painter’s painter, and this reputation only increased after his death in 1990. He remains for a certain cohort “someone to aspire to, and someone I want to continue the conversation with,” as painter and critic Stephen Westfall explained in 2012.

I never fell in with this sentiment. Yes, Humphrey’s odd color choices could linger with the viewer like a musky perfume, but beyond that I could never get the hang of his work. Its heavily built-up relief surfaces, which for Westfall are “reminiscent of the stucco textures of the fake grottos that were built into late-Renaissance and Baroque gardens,” put me more in mind of a musty Italian clam bar in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Its almost abstract, almost referential forms—as if Philip Guston were trying to make cartoons

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