In a riot of color and pattern, Ryan Humphrey’s work is as much fun as after-school adolescent shenanigans, but the pop-culture references, industrial materials, and found objects he uses together create a highly personalized environment which allows the work to transcend the everyday, offering insight into the artist’s experience. In the new installation for the grand opening of Kunsthalle Galapagos, Humphrey has included imagery borrowed from heavy metal, skate culture, BMX bikes, and hip-hop. Cast-off items are reclaimed, and stamped energetically with the hand of the artist, in a gesture that is more existential than DIY. Make no mistake – Humphrey has left his mark on the world.
Humphrey’s totem pole of stacked stainless steel beer kegs appears from one side as a wry take on Brancusi’s Endless Column (1938), but from the other, grotesque, ghostly imps appear, in a seeming reference to a death cult of a lost tribal people. The death references multiply, as we see an urn placed in a coffin plastered with band stickers. Is it a kind of memento mori, or a play on the once-ubiquitous “R.I.P Tupac” sort of graffiti mural? Probably a little of each. There is a gothic touch in the chandeliers that swing from the vaulted ceiling, but all of this is counter-balanced by the bright colors and loud patterns that dominate the space. Lest we think him too preoccupied with the hereafter, Humphrey has given us ramps to skate or ride on, and music to listen to, as well. In fact, with its resting place (the casket) and spiritual references on the one hand, and its exuberant color, pattern, and celebration of fun on the other, this installation suggests nothing so much as a kind of “base camp for the afterlife,” as Humphey describes it. We all have to die, but wouldn’t it be great if each of us found our own version of heaven on the other side?
Ryan Humphrey was born in Ashtabula, OH, and currently lives and works in New York City. He received his BFA from Ohio University and his MFA from Hunter College, pursuing post-graduate education at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine, and the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art. He has had numerous one-person exhibitions at museums and galleries nationwide, including DCKT Contemporary, New York, Levy Gallery for the Arts, Philadelphia, The Galleries at Moore, Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO and Road Agent Gallery, Dallas. Prestigious groups shows have included the Queens International 4, Queens Museum of Art, Queens, NY, Will Boys Be Boys? Questioning Adolescent Masculinity in Contemporary Art, curated by Shamim M. Momin, multiple venues, Five by Five: Contemporary Artists on Contemporary Art, Whitney Museum at Philip Morris, New York.