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Alumni Studio Visit: David Humphrey
May 19, 2020 · Alumni
NYSS: Describe a typical day in studio.
David Humphrey: I have to clear the decks of most responsibilities, like correspondence and bill paying, before I immerse into the instrumentalized madness of a day in the studio. Even after I’ve carved out a provisional freedom, I might begin by continuing to prime a canvas or sharpen the edges of a loosely articulated form – activities that don’t require inventiveness, improvisation or significant decision-making. But I usually wake up, so to speak, during those activities because they are speaking a simple version of the work-language of painting. I need to have many projects, at various stages of development, active in my studio at the same time in order to get any single thing done. This project over here is a promising but potentially pointless experiment; those drawings are developing protagonists or locations; this painting needs something I haven’t figured out yet, while that one is so close to finish that I need to be psyched about the last simple task. The studio is a congestion of works waiting to be finished or developed or works that remind me of an idea I want to address eventually. There is always a shifting sound-track in my work space and has been one since I was a student. Every painting I’ve ever made is invisibly sedimented with varieties of music that I was listening to at the time. I’ll often play my own music; nothing can restore spirit like wailing one’s head off on a saxophone.
NYSS: Walk me through your process. What are some of the parameters or problems you set up for yourself within your work?
DH: I gather images through drawing and archiving that I combine and recombine in ways I hope weaves subjective perspectives into socio/historic contexts. That can happen at the scale of a still life, images of workers in a factory, a riot or a family outing. I want the work to disorient habitual ways of looking and to use pictorial artifice as a thematic instrument.
NYSS: How has your practiced changed during this time of social distance? Have you had to adapt to a new way of working or tried new materials?
DH: I’m always adapting new ways of working and trying new materials. This pandemic catches me in a moment slightly more thematically focused than in my last couple shows. I have no idea, though, how this will play out or feel if and when the world opens back up.
NYSS: What do you keep in the studio for inspiration? Reference material, artist monographs, music, fiction, found objects, foods etc.
DH: The studio is an ecology but nutrients are now almost completely obtained online; lectures, music, articles, images. I used to troll used bookstores, libraries and flea markets for the weird and unexpected and it is now, sort of, almost all googleable. Observational drawing has returned to me as a fresh new frontier.
NYSS: Do you listen to anything while you work?
DH: A-Z. Spotify is the nearest thing to a universal juke box.
NYSS: How did studying at the New York Studio School influence your current studio practice?
DH: The Studio School helped me into cubism, both as a hands-on way of working and a way to think about how the world tangles into consciousness. I was happy to have experienced the students of Hans Hoffman as teachers. I disagreed with them about almost everything but their cultish formalism was appealingly romantic and scruffily urbane.
NYSS: Are there any upcoming shows or projects on the horizon you would like to share?! And where can people see your work digitally?
DH: I have a two person works on paper show with Medrie Mcphee, curated by Karen Wilkin scheduled for September at the Studio School.