By Nick Christophers
There are many who have been born with an artistic gift, but few who are actually given the opportunity to share it publicly. The art world, like the music industry, are both giants that are not easy to penetrate. This is even truer when it comes to an art form that is not a typical part of pop culture. There is one such artist that has managed to not only expose his work but has taken it to another level.
Richard Humann is a complex artist who has taken his work to an international level. His work is labeled as Neo-Conceptual which arguably finds its original roots in the work of the famous artist, Marcel Duchamp. Conceptualism first became popular among underground artists during the 60’s and 70’s. This type of art is based on the theory where the concept or idea is both as important as the material and aesthetic, or takes precedence over it. Richard himself was influenced by Duchamp, like so many artists have, but there were other influences for him as well; like Lawrence Weiner, Edward Ruscha, and Joseph Kosuth. But in truth, he combined what he learned from these artists with his own concepts and developed a unique presentation.
He has always been interested in art since he was a young child. One defining moment for him came after a visit to the Whitney Museum of American Art to see the Jonathan Borofsky retrospective many years ago. The exhibition did not resonate with him at first but he could not get it out of his head and kept going back to try and absorb it further. At the time of his visit, Minimalists like Donald Judd, Robert Mangold, and Carl Andre heavily influenced him and his approach to art. To this day, Richard is still applying the subtleties of the Minimalists and the thought-provoking ideas of the Conceptualist to his complex form of art and bringing it all to life in a structured presentation.
He studied at Harriman College, which was a private art college in the foothills of the Catskills north of New York City. It was an atmosphere, as Richard explains, that allowed the art students not just to “learn” but to “learn how to learn.” Even though they studied the history of art and worked in a student/teacher Bauhaus-like structure, they were also given the opportunity to be creative without boundaries. Richard would eventually take what he learned there and apply it to future works.
Richard has shown his art around the world from England, Germany, Russia, Spain, Belgium and Iceland to Korea, China, South Africa and Australia. His first solo museum show was in Finland during the dead of winter; 37° below zero and in virtually 24 hours of darkness which was a key experience for him. He has also been in the Venice Biennale with fellow artists Nam June Paik, Sol Lewitt, Kiki Smith, and Anish Kapor as well with architects Steven Holl, Greg Lynn, Diller + Scofidio, and Zaha Hadid.
“Each exhibition that I do, whether here or abroad, is unique and exciting. There is the pressure of professionalism, of course, to create a large-scale exhibition, but it comes with travels to distant lands, foreign cultures, and unforgettable experiences. I’ve been on an ice breaking ship in the Gulf of Bothnia, chewed betel and drank beer around a campfire with the indigenous people of Taiwan, climbed to the top of a mountain outside of Seoul to have a lunch of spiced cabbage with Buddhist monks, explored an abandoned castle in the Murcian foothills of Southern Spain, and crossed the Straights of Gibraltar to stay in a Kasbah in Tangiers. Each experience leaves its own indelible memory, and hopefully a lesson that I can learn from as well. A lesson of how to retain the wonderment, and make my art just a little better with each new adventure.”
At the present time, Richard is about to embark on two new exhibitions, one in Italy and the other in Pakistan. For the show in Karachi, Pakistan he was asked to represent the United States in the inaugural 2017 Karachi Biennale by the brilliant artist and Chief Curator of the exhibition, Amin Gulgee. Richard and Amin have known each other for many years and have exhibited their work together in the late 90’s. Since being invited to the exhibition by Amin, he has put in a number of proposals which are all large installations. He is now working with the Karachi Biennale team of curators and organizers to choose the one to be realized. For Venice, Italy the exhibition he has developed is titled “Ascension” and will be comprised of traditional art combined with new technology. The Chief Curator of that exhibition is Seol Park who is also the founder of Spark Art Management. The Project Manager is Young Jeon and Richard’s personal assistant is Mia Qian Collins. George LaGrange is producing the musical score and Yan Nuriyev is the programmer monitoring the technical end of the show. Together, they have tagged themselves “Team Ascension.”
“The majority of my time in the studio is spent working alone. Life for me as an artist is very much a dichotomous existence, in that it’s a monastic life, combined with a very public one as well. Being a working artist is like being a monk who sneaks out to a nightclub three nights a week after dark. Even though I do spend hours upon hours alone in the studio, I’ve always had a team of people either surrounding me or working with me. This goes for both the building of the work as well as exhibiting it. Many of my projects are large-scale, and require manufacture, construction, or assembly that’s done here in the studio, at an off-site facility, or on location at the exhibition.”
Typically, you can find Richard working in his Brooklyn art studio from early morning to very late in the evening. He also finds some respite at his weekend home in Woodstock, NY, chopping wood, building the stone wall around his property and doing other non-art related work just to clear the cobwebs which actually helps him develop new ideas. In 2015 alone he had already completed shows in Tampere, Finland, then Taipei and Hong Kong. He then had an exhibition in New York at the Elga Wimmer Gallery. Along with the upcoming exhibits in Italy and Pakistan this year he may have another one scheduled in London. Richard is the kind of artist who wakes up every morning with the same dream and desire to create art that he’s had since childhood. This type of mentality is what has developed him into such a unique artist.
Louis Pasteur once said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Richard Humann is definitely a bold artist and a driven individual with a prepared mind and I’m sure that chance will continue to favor him.
Richard’s newest work, Ascension, previewed in NYC and on exhibit in Venice, 2017