• The Great American Vernacular Encyclopedia: Vol. 1 The Sleeper

  • For more than a decade, Thomas Block Humery has been embarking on long, meandering missions across the United States with his 4x5 camera in tow, in search of nothing and everything. Guided by the whims of his eye or intuition, Humery strives to capture the latent transcendence of specific moments that are, alternatively, deceptively banal or traditionally sublime. This ongoing project, The Great American Vernacular Encyclopedia, refuses the sort of taxonomic hierarchy typically expected of such scientifically oriented surveys. Rather, Humery’s images, which float between the seemingly candid and self-consciously staged, are undergirded by a subliminal lexicon of compositional structures that upon extended viewing, begin to echo within the viewer’s mind, forever hinting at something that lies just beyond perception. 

     

    Thomas Block Humery met the painter Manuel Stehli when they were both included in a group exhibition at Galerie Marguo in early 2021, during which an immediate affinity between the artists was born. Despite their differences in chosen media and the general aesthetic of their works, both artists are propelled by an acute yet distanciated practice of looking. Their pictures toe the attenuated line between the concrete and ethereal, both achieving to harness in each work the membrane that tethers the hyper-specific to the boundlessly vague.

     

    On the occasion of Humery and Stehli’s synchronous presentations with Galerie Marguo, the artists were invited to turn their lenses on the other’s works. Humery has authored the catalogue essay for Manuel Stehli’s exhibition, Moving Inland, on view at the gallery’s Paris location from 23 June - 24 July 2021. In turn, Stehli has been invited to make a selection of images from Humery’s The Sleeper series, a chapter of The Great American Vernacular Encyclopedia shot across Utah between 2017 and 2020, which in total comprises forty-five images.

     

    A forthcoming publication, along with a portfolio of eighteen prints from this project, will be published by Galerie Marguo in 2021.

  • Manuel Stehli's Selection of The Sleeper series

  • Thomas Block Humery The Sleeper series selected by Manuel Stehli, 2021 Inkjet print on Hahnemühle Fine Art Pearl paper Set...
    The Sleeper series selected by Manuel Stehli, 2021
    Inkjet print on Hahnemühle Fine Art Pearl paper
    Set of 9, each 37.5 x 30 cm
    Unique
  • Manuel Stehli: A Tender Sense of Irony

    Manuel Stehli. Photo: Luis Bortt

    Thomas Block Humery's The Sleeper series shows a great formal variety, ranging from the blatant allegoric quality of a torn miniature american flag on a bed of dry pine cones via the romantic lyricism of the landscapes through to the obviously staged and slightly awkward scenes of people interacting, reminiscent of Renaissance tableaux or stock imagery.

     

    It is through the playful juxtaposition of these formal codes that they become visible and readable in this work - and that they give way to what may be hidden behind them. Thomas Block Humery's work never crosses the thin line this side of sarcasm in dealing with clichés (in this case, for instance, the tristesse of American suburbia and a certain type of photographic realism associated with it), but it reenacts and incorporates them with a very tender sense of irony. The result is a witty but sensitive homage to both a culture and the imagery it produces, be it voluntarily or involuntarily. And in this it is also, and maybe above all, a work about the medium of photography and its means of expression.

     

    I let myself be guided by these thoughts in choosing a set of nine photographs from Thomas Block Humery's The Sleeper series. The final selection can be described as a condensation of what I consider characteristic for the series as a whole: a sense of limbo and openness to different readings. The main aim was for this rather small selection to not be didactic or one-sided and thus to get lost in the clichés the series as a whole transcends. But aside from all that, the more time I spent with The Sleeper series the less I could help being seduced by the humoristic quality these photos also invoke in dialogue with each other. Where and how this may happen will have to be left to the spectator.

  • 'I'm looking for a way to unify triviality, literality, ordinary things with elevation, verticality and transcendence.' — Thomas Block Humery...

    "I'm looking for a way to unify triviality, literality, ordinary things with elevation, verticality and transcendence."

     

     Thomas Block Humery

    Olympus, 2019
    Inkjet print on Hahnemühle FineArt Pearl paper
    125 x 100 cm
    Edition of 3 plus 2 artist's proofs
    • Thomas Block Humery Ornamental, 2017 Inkjet print on Hahnemühle FineArt Pearl paper 125 x 100 cm Edition of 3 plus 2 artist's proofs
      Thomas Block Humery
      Ornamental, 2017
      Inkjet print on Hahnemühle FineArt Pearl paper
      125 x 100 cm
      Edition of 3 plus 2 artist's proofs
    • Thomas Block Humery Donut Bag, 2017 Inkjet print on Hahnemühle FineArt Pearl paper 125 x 100 cm Edition of 3 plus 2 artist's proofs
      Thomas Block Humery
      Donut Bag, 2017
      Inkjet print on Hahnemühle FineArt Pearl paper
      125 x 100 cm
      Edition of 3 plus 2 artist's proofs
    • Thomas Block Humery Down South, 2019 Inkjet print on Hahnemühle FineArt Pearl paper 125 x 100 cm Edition of 3 plus 2 artist's proofs
      Thomas Block Humery
      Down South, 2019
      Inkjet print on Hahnemühle FineArt Pearl paper
      125 x 100 cm
      Edition of 3 plus 2 artist's proofs
    • Thomas Block Humery Fraternity #1, 2017 Inkjet print on Hahnemühle FineArt Pearl paper 125 x 100 cm Edition of 3 plus 2 artist's proofs
      Thomas Block Humery
      Fraternity #1, 2017
      Inkjet print on Hahnemühle FineArt Pearl paper
      125 x 100 cm
      Edition of 3 plus 2 artist's proofs
  • 'I see in his paintings a world stripped bare, flattened and simplified, whose brutalist rendering on the surface obscures a...

    "I see in his paintings a world stripped bare, flattened and simplified, whose brutalist rendering on the surface obscures a certain nostalgia encapsulated within."

    — Thomas Block Humery on Manuel Stehli whose exhibition is simultaneously on view at Galerie Marguo

  • About the artist

    Selfportrait of Thomas Block Humery

    About the artist

     

    Thomas Block Humery was born in 1971 in Paris, France. He holds a Master of Arts degree from the Panthéon-Sorbonne University, and currently lives and works in Paris.

     

    Humery's recent exhibitions include 'Presentation of Marguo Artists' at Galerie Marguo (Paris, 2021), 'Hautvilliers Hollywood' at Galeri F16 (Paris, 2019), 'Situations Paris' at NeC Galerie (Paris, 2014), 'Portraits' at the National Museum of Iceland (Reykjavik, 2008), 'Great Expectations' at Valo Gallery (Rovaniemi, Finland, 2005), and 'Défilé sans trêve' at Galerie du Bon Marché (Paris, 2005). Selected group exhibitions include 'Presentations of Marguo Artists' at Galerie Marguo (Paris, 2021), AD Interieurs at La Monnaie de Paris (Paris, 2017), and 'France-Finlande' at Galerie de Pôle Images de Rouen (Rouen, 2009).

     

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