One thing that is certain about Jacqueline Humphries’ paintings is that photography cannot do them justice. Her obsession with the flatness of the canvas is conveyed by the juxtaposition of planes and layers of matter and the introduction of innovative materials and techniques. Humphries produces abstract painting of great visual complexity but which, paradoxically, is conceived to be comprehended at a glance.
In 1989, she participated in the Whitney Program where–she said it herself with humor–the fact of being a painter was considered an “artistic suicide.” Nevertheless, since then Humphries has constantly been interested in bringing a contemporary dimension to the pictorial gesture, notably through her interest in automation processes. Hence, at the end of the 1980s, she used a keypunch allowing, from the nineteenth century and in an increasingly elaborate way throughout the twentieth, to conceive programmatic cards via the use of perforated supports. For the present series, she employed large stencils wholly taking up again the composition of earlier paintings which she transcribed into ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange)–an alphabet in common use from the 1960s onwards for the transmission of messages, and sometimes diverted for artistic or at least creative ends.
“You know when you were a kid and you went on a trip to NASA? It was like they had these huge telex machines and they’d printed a portrait of the president entirely in machine characters.” The use of the linguistic function and the importance of the value of the image are hence predominant in the thinking that drives Humphries, as are the systems employed.
Jacqueline Humphries nevertheless constantly searches for a contrast effect between a frame, a repeated and codified motif, and blurring effects, more random marks, endlessly giving rise to the question of the accident, there where the processes brought into action actually result from great technical skill.