M a r g o --H u m p h r e y - -TTb.- 1 9 4 2
American printmaker, illustrator, and art teacher, Margo Humphrey was born in Oakland, California, in 1942. She earned a BFA in Painting and Printmaking from the California College of Arts and Crafts, and a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Printmaking from Stanford University.
Humphrey began teaching in 1973 at the University of California Santa Cruz and has since taught at the University of Texas at San Antonio, the San Francisco Art Institute, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has also taught at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji; Yaba Technological Institute of Fine Art, Ekoi Island, Nigeria; the University of Benin in Benin City, Nigeria; the Margaret Trowell School of Fine Art in Kampala, Uganda, and the Fine Art School of the National Gallery of Art, Harare, Zimbabwe. In 1989 she was appointed Department Head of Printmaking at the University of Maryland in College Park.
Humphrey has worked in lithography, monoprint, and woodcut with significant printmaking ateliers, including the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper, the Bob Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, and the Tamarind Institute in New Mexico. She was one of the earliest African-American woman artists to distinguish herself as a lithographer in a highly technical, male-dominated profession, and the first to have her prints published by Tamarind, in 1974.
Humphrey’s imagery combines historical perspective, autobiography, and fantasy to illuminate her experience as an African American woman. Bold, saturated color, animated figures, and syncopated rhythmic arrangements are hallmarks of Humphrey's oeuvre. Though Humphrey labels her distinctive style "sophisticated naive," the narrative complexity and technical skill of her works attest to her artistic virtuosity. Joyful, expressive, and at times humorous, her works offer engaging commentary on the presumptions of American culture and myth, while embracing her personal vision of authenticity and spirituality.
She developed her 1987 work The Last Bar-B-Que, a vividly colored transformation of the Last Supper, following a three-year period during which she examined portrayals of the iconic subject by artists from Pietro Lorenzetti to Emil Nolde. Her narrative work The Garden, a monumentally-scaled reductive woodcut, is a further example of an archetypal subject—Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden—debunked and rendered with fresh, life-affirming vibrancy.
Since her first solo exhibition in 1965, Humphrey’s works have been exhibited internationally. They are held in major institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, The Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Hampton University Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), the Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro, and the National Gallery of Modern Art, Lagos. In 1996, she was invited to be part of the World Printmaking Survey at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
In 2011 Hampton University Museum mounted a 45-year retrospective of Humphrey’s work Her Story: Margo Humphrey Lithographs and Works on Paper, jointly curated by Robert E. Steele, executive director of the David Driskell Center at the University of Maryland, and Curator Dr. Adrienne L. Childs.
Humphrey wrote and illustrated the children's book, The River that Gave Gifts, inspired by African American can and African sources and published by Great Times Books, 1987.
Humphrey has been honored with The James D. Phelan Award from the World Print Council, National Endowment of the Arts Fellowships (1988), Ford Foundation Fellowship (1981), Tiffany Fellowships (1988), and Teaching Fellowships from the United States Information Agency Arts America Program.
The GardenTT-1989, Reductive Color Woodcut.
Signed, dated, and annotated A/P in pencil. Signed and dated in the image, lower right.
Image size 27 1/4 x 39 1/8 inches (692 x 994 mm); sheet size 29 1/2 x 42 inches (749 x 1,067 mm).
A fine, richly-inked impression, with fresh, vivid colors, on heavy cream wove paper; the full sheet with margins (1 to 1 1/2 inches), in excellent condition.
"Humphrey continued to reinterpret stories from the Bible with African American figures. In 1989 she published the woodcut print 'The Garden' at Magnolia Editions in Oakland, CA. For this rare foray into relief printmaking, she employed the reductive method, which uses only one block that is successively carved for each color segment, reducing the block with each cutting. Technically challenging, this lush and elaborate print is a testament to Humphrey’s skills as a printmaker. A youthful Adam and Eve are depicted in a luxuriant tropical landscape. Here Humphrey chooses not to include the traditional symbols of humanity’s downfall but instead portrays them protected by angels in an atmosphere of idyllic bounty. ...Although Humphrey challenges traditional representation of Christian themes, her images are not iconoclastic but present a broader, more inclusive engagement with religious spirituality."