Vol.4, Number 3, November 2008
[Download $ at Ingenta]
DAVID HUMPHREY IS A NEW YORK ARTIST REPRESENTED BY SIKKEMA JENKINS & CO. HE OCCASIONALLY TURNS IN REVIEWS FOR ART IN AMERICA AND WROTE FOR ART ISSUES FROM 1989 UNTIL ITS DEATH IN 2002. A FORTHCOMING ANTHOLOGY OF HIS ART WRITING, BLIND HANDSHAKE, WILL BE RELEASED BY PERISCOPE PUBLISHING. HIS RADIO SHOW SOUND AND VISION CAN BE HEARD ON WPS1.ORG.
> IKE AND ME
Dwight Eisenhower was the bland grandfatherly presence on the TV of my earliest childhood. The 1960s slowly pushed his memory into a prehistory fossilized somewhere deep in my father’s soldierly sense of responsibility and my aversion to that sense. Art school fortified my aversion even as my application portfolio was filled with stone carvings I had done with Dad’s tools and hobbyist coaching. Dwight Eisenhower, like my father, made art in his spare time.
Even as contemporary art has perennially defined itself against the unconsidered appetites of popular taste, artists, myself included, have mined the vernacular for unexpected insight. Many of my paintings are variations or interpretations of works I find online or in flea markets. Dwight Eisenhower’s paintings presented an irresistible adventure. His work exemplifies what Christopher Bollas would call normotic, the pathologically normal. There are no displays of fancy brushwork, no compositional or iconographic ingenuities, no indication of art historical knowledge or ambition. Ike’s work has just the right mix, for my purposes, of rhetorical modesty, hyper-conventionality, and subtle idiosyncrasy borne through awkwardness and error, but underwritten by our knowledge of his life as the victorious Supreme Allied Commander and postwar President of the United States. Ike was the author of a successful memoir and, consequently, very aware of the earning power of his signature. In 1968 he published a suite of “limited edition” reproductions of his paintings with the name of each owner printed below the image alongside its title, size, medium, and copyright.