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Jacqueline Humphries, „Medusacon“, 2022

Jacqueline Humphries

Medusacon (2022)

The New York artist Jacqueline Humphries subjects abstract painting to the effects of new technologies, using her chosen medium to engage the challenges of a networked society. Her work integrates the nuances of digital communication with the formal and psychic possibilities of serial reproduction, as seen to full effect in a recent major survey exhibition at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus. Humphries often uses laser-cut stencils to generate dense painted grids of emoticons: pared-down representations of human expressions made from standard punctuation marks or other keyboard characters. But the artist also utilizes the more popular – and more corporate – form of emotional coding: the Apple-designed SMS emoji. Select emojis even serve as the titles for some of Humphries’s works, thus imbuing her paintings with a feeling or mood that may inflect how the viewer perceives them. For TEXTE ZUR KUNST, Humphries has taken a blank emoji and added stenciled elements of Caravaggio’s 1597 depiction of Medusa’s severed head. Arguably the most iconic face from ancient mythology – a once-beguiling woman who, according to Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” was cursed by Athena after being raped by Poseidon – Medusa’s expression varies in each of the serial iterations, morphing from terrified to fearsome or even comical. Through repetition, Humphries’s “Medusacon” questions this now-dominant means to convey our mental states; emojis petrify our potentially limitless range of expression, confining it to a predetermined pool of canned emotions from which to choose.