Exploration of space through color and structure - Ralph Humphrey

Ralph Humphrey (April 14, 1932 – July 14, 1990) was an American abstract painter whose work has been linked to both Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism. He was active in the New York art scene in the 1960s and '70s. His paintings are best summarized as an exploration of space through color and structure. He lived and worked in New York,The Estate of Ralph Humphrey is represented exclusively by Garth Greenan Gallery, New York

 Humphrey’s artistic style went through several phases and developments, which can be roughly outlined in the following way: monochromes from 1957–60; frame paintings 1961–65; shaped canvases 1967–70; constructed paintings 1971–1990.Throughout these phases, Humphrey kept a keen eye on color, light, and space while he moved between abstraction and representation. As Kenneth Baker explains in Art in America in 1984, “Each of his works defines an ideal viewing distance that can be discovered only by patient observation of the focus of the details, the resolution of the image and the proper relationship between body and object. Finding the apt distance from which to contemplate Humphrey’s new paints is thus not something you do discursively: it is an exercise in feeling your way silently towards a correct spatial interval.

 The last definable phase of his artistic style approaches representation at times, sometimes calling to mind an open window. These constructed paintings also border on sculpture, often coming ten inches out from the wall, directly confronting the viewer in real space. The paint, too, is considerably built up, giving the surface of the paintings considerable texture that was not previously seen in his work. Ellen Schwartz writes in 1977 about his show at John Weber, where his constructed paintings were still abstract: “Humphrey’s latest works, meditative rather than communicative, require the suspension of conscious efforts to grasp them before they will yield their secrets, which lay within ourselves all the while. The rich blue variegated surfaces are like blotters onto which we pour our own fantasies.”Deborah Phillips, writing about his Willard Gallery show in 1982, explains how his constructed paintings are natural extensions of the earlier frame paintings: “Frames-within-frames have long provided the structural basis for Humphrey’s colorful designs; he has simply made his window allusion literal.” She explains, too, that these paintings are a step forward: “The shift does, however, bring greater variety and complexity to the artist’s constructions. There is a more explicit sense of space, of indoors and outdoors.”Beyond content, we see Humphrey using a brighter color palette and inserting vaguely figurative, whimsical patterns onto the surface.Yet, by the mid 1980s, the paintings return to a more ambiguous, abstract state.Wikipedia

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