David Humphrey

David Humphrey was born on August 30, 1955, in Augsburg, Germany, and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His artistic journey began with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1977, followed by a Master of Arts from New York University in 1980. At NYU, he studied under the distinguished film critic Annette Michelson. Humphrey further honed his skills at the New York Studio School from 1996 to 1997.

David Humphrey is a renowned American painter, art critic, and sculptor whose work has significantly influenced the postmodern turn in painting since the late 1970s. He is celebrated for his playful, cartoonish, and thought-provoking paintings that skillfully blend figuration and abstraction, creating allegories about the medium of painting itself. His unique style, characterized as “surrealist-tinged,” draws inspiration from neo-expressionism, surrealism, cubism, and the metaphysical tradition.

Humphrey’s work is known for its stylistic heterogeneity, incorporating both abstract and figurative elements. He often blurs these elements together, drawing from unconventional sources such as cartoons, amateur paintings by Dwight D. Eisenhower, and old family photographs to create visually intriguing images.

Throughout his illustrious career, Humphrey has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards:

  • Guggenheim Fellowship (2002): Recognizing his exceptional creative ability in the arts.
  • Rome Prize (2008): Awarded for his significant contributions to the field of visual arts.
  • American Academy of Arts and Letters Purchase Award (2011): Honoring his outstanding achievements in art.

In 1984, Humphrey was part of the influential group exhibition “New Hand-Painted Dreams: Contemporary Surrealism” at Barbara Gladstone Gallery, alongside notable artists like George Condo, Carroll Dunham, and Kenny Scharf. This exhibition introduced “neo-surrealism” as a potential movement and garnered significant attention.

His paintings have been described in the New York Times as “surrealist-tinged,” highlighting their dreamlike and puzzling qualities. Humphrey’s work has contributed to the postmodern shift in painting from the 1970s to the 1990s, favoring fractured and heterogeneous approaches over the modernist preference for progress, refinement, and unity of medium and style.

Humphrey began his writing career in 1990 with a review of an exhibition by Jacqueline Humphries in Lusitania. Later, he moved to Los Angeles and wrote for the arts magazine Art issues until its closure in 2003. His column in Art issues was known for integrating thematic ideas with gallery reviews, reconnecting ideas and objects in a unique and engaging way.

In 2010, he published “Blind Handshake,” a collection of reviews written between 1990 and 2008, featuring critiques of well-known contemporary artists like Dana Schutz, Peter Saul, Robert Crumb, and John Currin. His essay “Describable Beauty” (1996) reflects his perspective on beauty in contemporary art, emphasizing its psychedelic and changeable nature.

In 2020, a monograph surveying Humphrey’s 40-year career was published by Fredericks & Freiser Gallery. This comprehensive work includes essays by Davy Lauterbach, Wayne Koestenbaum, and Lytle Shaw, as well as a conversation between Humphrey and the painter Jennifer Coates.

David Humphrey currently lives and works in New York City, continuing to inspire and influence the art world with his innovative and thought-provoking work.

Seated man with Ice Cream Cones

Monotype Ice Cream and Horses

Monotype Nurse w Doll

Waiving Man

Monotype Horizontal

Seated 2 Faced Man