Avery Singer - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 15, 2021 | Phillips

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  • 'If you’re making art as a contemporary artist, you should just be trying to make something that hasn’t been thought of before, that has a real stake in authorship, in originality, and offers a unique conception of the world.' —Avery Singer 

    Blurring a distinction between analogue and digital processes, Avery Singer creates complex works on canvas that combine a playful delight in illusionism with an intellectually rigorous critique of modes of perception in the digital age. Splicing traditional painting techniques with industrial processes and three-dimensional computer modelling software, Singer explores innovative ways of removing the hand of the artist from her work. As she explains, ‘I am not really interested in using paint brushes, and never have been, so I guess I am trying to figure out how to make a painting without that methodology.’i 


    Executed in a palette of deep, jewel-like mauves using her signatory layers of airbrushed paint, this large-scale untitled work from 2018 presents a complex spatial environment rendered in a glowing hexagonal grid. Playing with painterly preoccupations of light, form, and modelling, Singer creates absorbing optical effects in her representation of three-dimensional space on the flat picture surface. Half eclipsed in opaque shadow that dramatises the shifting quality of the surface as the eye moves from matt zones to more glossy and reflective areas, a spherical form sits on – or emerges from – the grid. Distorting and warping the surrounding hexagonal grid in its convex reflection Singer generates a disorientating and complex dimensionality in the present work, at once signalling her challenge to the limits of her medium and her commitment to radically new ways of seeing. 


    A magnificent example of what the Financial Times have described as her ‘deep geometric sculptural works’, Untitled was generated first using digital modelling tools usually employed by architectural students.ii Having created this backdrop, Singer then airbrushed the resulting image directly onto the canvas in sweeping layers, dramatically combining Cubist or Constructivist representation of form and volume with a cinematic or computer-generated sense of pictorial space. 


    Avery Singer at work on a painter in her New York studio 


    Optical Illusion, Technology, and the Avant-Garde 


    Although Singer claims to have little nostalgia for art history, claiming ‘I would rather do something that is representative of the time we are in’, her careful attention to optical effect and challenges to the idea of what painting is and can do in its historical moment aligns her with a long history of modernist avant-garde experiment. Stylistically, in her use of repeating pattern and line, Singer’s illusionistic works draw on a history of innovative approaches to the questions of perception and reality tackled head on by 1960s Op Artists Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely, the contemporary abstraction of Charline von Heyle, and the digitally-assisted work of Albert Oehlen and Wade Guyton. 


    Victor Vasarely, Vega-Nor, 1969, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York © 2021. Albright Knox Art Gallery/Art Resource, NY/Scala, Florence © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2021
    detail of the present work 

    In its limited palette, use of line and repetition and the manipulation of the two-dimensional picture plane with swollen and warped grids, the present work most closely recalls Bridget Riley’s concentrated attempts to ‘dismember, to dissect the visual experience’ in her black and white works of the 1960s.iii 


    Just as Riley aimed to remove the hand of the artist by privileging perception itself as her medium and foregrounding a placing a layer of mechanical preproduction between herself and her work, Singer’s detachment of herself from the painting process allows her to think critically about both the digital and the painterly, straddling both of these worlds. At once cutting edge and deeply invested in one of the oldest artist mediums, Singer’s ‘many-layered pieces bring the history of painting to bear on the sometimes-dystopian digital landscape that now constitutes much of our visual experience’.iv 


    Engaging thoughtfully with the legacies of these artists and their investigation into the overlapping edges of technology and visual art, Singer’s contribution to the art of perception in the 21st century has already proved to be highly though-provoking. With digital technology, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence more closely woven into the fabric of our daily lives, bodies, and minds than ever before, these artistic interventions seem particularly timely.


    Hauser & Wirth, Avery Singer at Frieze Los Angeles, 2020 


    Collector’s Digest


    •    In April 2021, Avery Singer achieved a new record price at auction with another untitled work from 2018 with Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York


    •    At just 34 years old, Singer has been the subject of significant international attention, with solo exhibitions at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, Vienna’s Secession and the Museum Ludwig in Cologne. 


    •    After joining Hauser & Wirth at the end of 2019, in September this year Singer opened her first major show ‘Reality Ender’ at the gallery’s New York location. 


    •    Her paintings currently reside in the public collections of the Museum Ludwig, Stedelijk Museum, MoMA, The Whitney Museum and the Hammer Museum.

    i Avery Singer quoted in Kat Herriman ‘Avery Singer: Young Artists 2018’ Cultured Mag, 2018, online 
    ii Franklin Melendez, ‘Compositional Machines’, Flash Art, issue 330, April-May 2020, online
    iii Bridget Riley in conversation with Maurice de Sausmarez, Art International, April 1967
    iv ‘The Location of the Self: A Conversation between Avery Singer and Otessa Moshfegh, moderated by Randy Kennedy for Ursula, online 

    • Provenance

      Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Gavin Brown's enterprise, Days of the Weak (computer pain), 4 March - 22 April 2018



signed and dated 'AVERY SINGER 2018' on the overlap
acrylic on canvas stretched over wood panel
101.9 x 114.5 cm (40 1/8 x 45 1/8 in.)
Executed in 2018.

Full Cataloguing

£150,000 - 200,000 

Sold for £403,200

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

+44 7391 402741


Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe

+44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2021