Exhibition of paintings and works on paper by Ralph Humphrey opens at Gary Snyder Gallery

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Exhibition of paintings and works on paper by Ralph Humphrey opens at Gary Snyder Gallery
Ralph Humphrey, Christmas Story, 1979–1980. Casein and modeling paste on wood, 42 x 84 x 7 inches. Signed and dated, verso. © Estate of Ralph Humphrey, courtesy Gary Snyder Gallery, New York.

NEW YORK, NY.- Gary Snyder Gallery announces Ralph Humphrey, an exhibition of paintings and works on paper at 529 West 20th Street. Opened on September 13, 2012, the exhibition is Humphrey’s first in a New York gallery since 1998. Fifteen of the artist’s thickly impastoed abstract paintings are on view, as well as a selection of works on paper. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, with contributions from Klaus Kertess, David Pagel, and Stephen Westfall. In addition, the catalogue will include excerpts from Humphrey’s sketchbooks and journals—none of which have ever been published previously.

The exhibition and its accompanying publication provide a detailed view of the artist’s work from 1973 to 1984—hulking masses of casein and modeling paste in a palette of intense colors. Works in the exhibition such as Untitled (1973), Christmas Story (1979–1980), and Forest (1984) demonstrate Humphrey’s unique ability to create surfaces that are at once immediate yet boundless in depth. Icons of Postminimalism, these paintings transform the traditional relationship between viewer and object; their large scale and density literally force viewers into the objects’ space.

“Space coming forward is more of a confronting, more like an experience,” wrote Humphrey, “but an experience that calls attention to its own time. . . . I find that when the painting starts coming back at me I know I’m going to get to the observer.”

Born in Youngstown, Ohio in 1932, Ralph Humphrey studied painting at Youngstown University. In 1957, Humphrey relocated to New York, where he met artists Theodoros Stamos and Mark Rothko. Rothko’s fierce opinions and strong, personal emotionalism were major influences on the young artist— ones that continued throughout his career. From 1966 to 1990, Humphrey taught painting in the graduate art department at Hunter College. He remained at Hunter until his death in 1990.

During the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Humphrey had solo exhibitions at many of the most influential galleries, including: Tibor de Nagy Gallery (1959, 1960, New York), Green Gallery (1965, New
York), Bykert Gallery (1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, New York), The Texas Gallery (1973, Houston), Daniel Weinberg Gallery (1974, 1976, 1982, San Francisco), John Weber Gallery (1976, 1977, New York), Willard Gallery (1980, 1982, 1984, New York), Daniel Weinberg Gallery (1983, 1986, 1990, Los Angeles), Jay Gorney Modern Art (1987, New York), and Mary Boone Gallery (1990, New York). During this period, his work was also featured in many important museum exhibitions, such as Abstract Expressionists and Imagists (1961, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum), Systemic Painting (1965, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum), A Romantic Minimalism (1968, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia), A View of a Decade (1977, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago), Painting in Relief (1980, Whitney Museum of American Art), and The Meditative Surface (1984, Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago), among others. More recently, Humphrey’s work appeared in A Minimal Future?: Art as Object, 1958–1968 (2004, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles) and High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting, 1967–1975 (2006, Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro).

Humphrey’s work is in the collections of major museums around the world, including: the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museum of Modern Art; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Smithsonian American Art Museum; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; the Walker Art Center; the Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro; and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

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