John Humble was raised in a military family and grew up traveling the world. Perhaps his ability to see odd and quirky juxtapositions in the most mundane of public tableaux can be attributable to the freshness of eye that one experiences as a “visitor.” Humble, however, has now lived in L.A. for over 30 years and his color photographs continue to uncover aesthetics of chaos and clutter, and a melting pot of architecture. He quotes the Grateful Dead, “once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if you look at it right.”
Humble is recognized as a keen observer of Los Angeles and was one of eight photographers awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to chronicle the city on its bicentennial. In 2007, the Getty mounted a major mid-career retrospective of his photographs entitled: A Place in the Sun: Photographs of Los Angeles by John Humble, accompanied by a significant catalogue.
In this, his first exhibition with Craig Krull Gallery, Humble decided to broaden his scope and “drive around the United States and photograph the American Landscape.” Previously, his work was created with a large view camera, but advancements in digital photography enabled him to make his new photos with a hand-held camera, allowing more freedom and mobility. Humble made a series of extensive trips, staying primarily on smaller country roads. It is, of course, significant that his explorations were made in a car, and that his discoveries have become part of a great tradition in American photographic road trips. Like his observations in Los Angeles, these American pictures are about insights in juxtaposition; aged and vacant storefronts sit beside gaudy drive-thrus, hand-painted religious billboards stand in empty fields, as do newly constructed, box-like churches that look more like concrete-slab industrial parks.
As a counterpoint to Humble’s photographs of Middle America, he will concurrently present a series of photographs of Venice Beach. As the artist describes it, “there is no place in the world like the tawdry three-ring circus of Venice…electric guitar players on rollerblades, marijuana doctors, tarot readers, muscle builders, tattoo shops, drug addicts, entertainers, and people speaking every language under the sun.”