Jacqueline Humphries

Blondnoir (2008)

Oil and enamel on linen
90 inches by 96 inches

Located in Owner’s Club

Jacqueline Humphries’ Blondnoir (2008) appears to be two or three paintings collapsed into the same space. Think high-speed collision. Or a digital transmission on the fritz. The New York artist’s fractured, silver-hued abstraction gives stunning shape to the compression of time and space that makes modern life both thrilling and anxiety-riddled.

In the nineteenth century, philosophers felt that the Sublime delivered such double-edged experiences. Humphries, influenced by her predecessors in the New York painting school, brings them down to earth. The metallic silver paint she mixes herself is highly reflective. Its glare can be blinding. So to see her work without squinting, one must look at it from various angles, from across the room and up close. Taking it in from different perspectives allows the viewer to appreciate its splintered, stop-and-start composition. Its title, made up of two adjectives Humphries has joined, evokes light and darkness, beauty and menace. And like a movie from the glory days of film noir, her painting requires that viewers do a little detective work, piecing together the evidence to see the light amid the shadows.

To this end, Humphries hides nothing. A close look reveals that Blondnoir was painted in layers. Each layer dried before the next was applied. And between layers, Humphries covered parts of her painting with strips of masking tape, sometimes sticking it on in parallel bands and at other times with less regularity. The process painting, taping, tearing off the tape (and doing it over and over again) has created a charged surface of interrupted brushstrokes and fragmented shapes that recalls cut-and-paste collage and roughly-spliced films. The drama and the suspense are there for any viewer who is not afraid to play detective.

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