Avery Singer - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Tuesday, November 15, 2022 | Phillips

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  • "I’m trying to look forward from my own vantage point, because that seems like the most challenging and complex thing to do."
    —Avery Singer

    Untitled, 2015, quasi-satirically engages themes of digitization, projection, and reproduction as an avatar-portrait of Avery Singer’s autobiographical artist archetype. The work, which featured in the artist’s first European solo show at The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, in 2016, originates from the pivotal body of work that launched the artist’s career, exploring the concept of the self as an archetypical artist through depictions of blocky, computer-generated characters. 

     

    Untitled features a human bust in Singer’s signature greyscale; its flat hair, folded like confetti paper, casts shadows on the face in lieu of eyes or mouth. A detail is drawn out in a magnification loupe from the right cheek, seeking an invisible blemish in a gesture that any frequent user of social media will be all too familiar with. The hyper-zoom reveals textures unseen: a perforated dermis, microscopic particles that cast long shadows, like fingers, reaching out to touch the viewer and confront them with the work’s un/reality. 

     

    lbert Oehlen, Untitled, 2004. Private Collection.
    Albert Oehlen, Untitled, 2004, Private Collection. Artwork: © Albert Oehlen / 2022 Artists Rights Society, New York

    Singer’s use of black and white in this body of work stems from a combination of childhood experiences and rekindled inspiration. The daughter of two film projectionists (her father worked at the Museum of Modern Art), Singer spent her childhood weekends watching art films in black and white in the museum’s basement viewing room. However, it took until 2009, when Singer, as an art student, saw an exhibition of Albert Oehlen’s Computer Paintings at Skarstedt, New York, for the artist to connect film and technology to her painting practice. “I had not been interested in contemporary painting until I saw that show,” she recalled. “And I realized, oh, this medium is actually really powerful, if you use it right.”i

    "If you’re going to make an original statement in painting, you also have to address its history… All artists, but especially painters, have to deal with the issue of art in the age of mechanical reproduction."
    —Avery Singer
    Singer’s works from this period, Untitled included, ask, what is the role of art (or artist?) when images can be mass-produced by computers? Reflecting on the start of her career, Singer notes, “I had not seen paintings that employ 3-D modeling software as a means for image production, so I began to experiment with that.”ii She uses such software—the architectural mock-up tool called SketchUp was an early favorite—to build her blocky, greyscale compositions of mute, female-coded figures who “romantically inhabit” the “mystical corners” of early 20th century art history.iii The figures’ abject blankness satirizes nostalgia for an art world gone by, and her clunky computer renderings recall canonical art-historical tropes, such as the flowing hair of Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, 1485-1486, Uffizi Gallery, or the corkscrew curls of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s 17th century sculptures. More contemporary references abound, too, as Singer draws from Modernist portraiture conventions, and classic theoretical concepts of image and reproduction.

     

    [left] Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Dora Maar, 1937. Musée Picasso, Paris. Image: © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2022 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York [right] Andy Warhol, Birth of Venus (After Botticelli), 1984. Artwork: © 2022 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    [left] Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Dora Maar, 1937. Musée Picasso, Paris. Image: © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2022 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    [right] Andy Warhol, Birth of Venus (After Botticelli), 1984. Artwork: © 2022 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    "Instead of treating computer graphics as a flattening tool, I thought of using them as an illusory one, as a potential way to generate an unfamiliar reality."
    —Avery Singer

    When building compositions like Untitled, Singer works backwards from Internet image sources, which she then runs through her digital modeling tools, and finally translates into acrylic on canvas.iv In a way, her process is the inverse of the average person’s experience of using the Internet, where one’s online persona is built up, over time, from “real life” sources. For Singer, the “real life” thing, the physical painting, is the last object to come into being.

     

    Untitled exists in a digitally-mediated space in which one can zoom into the surface of the skin, yet the basic features of the face remain stubbornly undefined. The contrast of micro-knowledge and macro-frustration in Untitled perhaps reflects the “process of banalization” that Singer cites as a product of modern society, specifically, in terms of hyper-monetized and hyper-online spaces, such as social media, which is the natural habitat of the 21st century artist building their career.v

     

    Singer engages this digital landscape in both personal and universalized terms with Untitled. Her computer aesthetic creates the artistic space to explore the self as archetypical artist, both intimately tied to, and completely divorced from, the self as an individualized human being.

     

    i Avery Singer, quoted in Jason Rosenfeld, “Avery Singer with Jason Rosenfeld,” The Brooklyn Rail, September 2021, online.
    ii Avery Singer, quoted in Lauren Cornell, “Hyperreal, if You Like,” Flash Art, October 12, 2015, online.
    iii Ibid.
    iv “Hammer Projects: Avery Singer,” The Hammer Museum, October 2015, online
    v Avery Singer, quoted in Cornell.

    • Provenance

      Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Avery Singer: Scenes, April 23–October 2, 2016

4

Untitled

signed "Avery Singer 2015" on the overlap
acrylic on canvas
77 1/8 x 61 1/4 in. (195.9 x 155.6 cm)
Painted in 2015.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$1,500,000 - 2,000,000 

Sold for $1,724,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Global Managing Director and Specialist, Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1278
[email protected]

Carolyn Mayer
Associate Specialist, Associate Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1206
[email protected]

 

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 November 2022