Trey Abdella - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Wednesday, June 22, 2022 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • “I make work that is really reflective of things that I’m going through and just like my life.”
    Trey Abdella

    Meaning in Life, Meaning in Art


    Virginia-born American artist Trey Abdella lives and works in New York. The challenges of living in a complex cosmopolitan city has served as the inspiration for his artworks, although the paintings themselves are not specifically about New York. The expressive boldness of Abdella’s works originates from the artist making art because he was grounded by his parents as a child, left only with paper to draw cartoons. Branching from this, a sense of self-correction if not vindication is persistent in the artist’s work; as can be seen from the artist’s portrait, the painting on the right shows a figure ironing his own arm - as in ironing things out - trying to literally straighten things. An ironic sense of misfortune present in the artist’s childhood continues to the present, as Abdella’s artworks invite his viewers a glimpse into his conflicted internal world of dilemmas.



    Installation view of the current work at Nino Mier Gallery, Los Angeles, 2020


    Trey Abdella’s art strives to resonate with human experiences and feelings, and daringly

    confronts the spectator with the artist’s struggles in life without filter. Abdella utilises simple universal iconography referenced from internet memes, movies and cartoons found in contemporary culture. He blends these icons with various aspects of anxiety he or his friends experienced from different scenarios encountered in daily life, portraying the underbelly of society. As can be seen in another piece, Dead Man Walking illustrates a dark story in which love brings a deadly ending to its main character. Abdella’s paintings express insecurity, embarrassment, fear, terror, disgust, unspeakable desires and emotions that we must conceal everyday in order to abide with social conventions and expectations.


    Some Things Aren’t Worth Waiting For


    Within a legal framework, identity is conferred through officially issued documentation rather than power of personality. The present work, Some Things Aren’t Worth Waiting For, portrays possibly the artist himself awaiting official documentation at a government agency: the character’s ennui is palpable, as the almost-comedic title of the painting suggests that it is not something that he looks forward to receiving. Societal recognition of one’s identity is in a sense self-effacing, as one loses their individuality by becoming a part of it. This feeling is all the more ironic when one considers that the main character sports a branded Rolex, in itself another form of identity crafting through status symbolism. This torment of losing one’s identity is fully expressed by the character dragging his face in an extreme rendition of what is colloquially known as ‘facepalming’, wounding himself in the process as he drastically carves deep grooves into his face.


    His eyes are lost, leaving only four deep red tracks. The carefully constructed composition magnifies the power of this imagery and emotion, where the figure is disproportionally large in the foreground against a relatively obscure office that fades out with perspective in the left background. Attention is not brought to the busy office surroundings, but rather to the frozen moment of internal melancholy and self-destruction. The overall effect is reminiscent of exaggerated Looney Tunes scenes, in which characters’ emotions are caricatured to ridiculous extremes for comedic effect, oftentimes zoomed in or highlighted disproportionally.



    Left: Detail of the present lot

    Right: Looney Tunes character

    Skilled Painting Techniques


    “(A) big focus on traditional technique made me want to try different mediums, playing with different types of technical languages, like things that are flat like cartoons, and mixing that with reality.”
    — Trey Abdella

    Similar to American contemporary artist Jamian Juliano-Villani, Abdella also uses projectors to construct the composition of his artworks. Although Abdella is well trained in realism, he branches out from traditional form and textures of painting, and explores simplistic expressions in drawing in the style of cartoon. The current work exhibits the artist’s skilful application of a varied mixture of brushstrokes and painting techniques. The figure’s coarse face is illustrated with fluffy patches of thick paint contrasting with a cartoonish hand. In contrast, the Rolex Submariner watch is hyper-realistically sculpted with layers of paint, set against a highly textured painted sleeve reminiscent of the feel of cloth. The artist also uses found objects, like a rhinestone and a gold-coloured chain, injecting verisimilitude into the painting. Abdella playfully builds up multiple layers in the composition to stimulate the viewer’s eye to simultaneously process multiple messages within one glance. The highly charged internal emotions packed behind the highly skilled painting techniques blurs the divide between the worlds of reality and illusion.


    Lot 273, Jamian Juliano-Villani, Golden Girl, 2015
    Phillips Hong Kong Day Sale, 21 June 2022
    Estimate HKD 300,000-500,000


    Collector’s Digest 


    Born in 1994 in Manassas, West Virginia, Trey Abdella graduated from School of Visual Arts, New York for his BFA in 2016 and furthered his studies with a master’s degree at New York Academy of Art.


    The artist’s latest solo exhibition, Almost Heaven, is currently running at the X Museum in Beijing (17 April to 17 July 2022), which marked the artist’s debut in China. Trey Abdella held solo exhibitions internationally at KÖNIG GALERIE, Seoul (2021); KÖNIG GALERIE, Berlin (2020); T293 Gallery, Rome (2021, 2019), amongst others. His work has been included in recent group shows at Vito Schnabel Gallery, Los Angeles (2022) and Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles (2021). He also joined the Chubb artist fellowships at the New York Academy of Art (2019-2020). His art is included in important collections such as the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; Perez Museum, Miami; Albertina Museum and X Museum, Beijing. The current work was included as part of the To Paint Is To Love Again exhibition at Nino Mier Gallery Los Angeles in 2020.


    The artist speaking on his practice

    • Provenance

      Nino Mier Gallery, Los Angeles
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Los Angeles, Nino Mier Gallery, To Paint is to Love Again, 18 -28 January 2020


Some Things Aren't Worth Waiting For

signed and dated 'TREY ABDELLA 2019' on the reverse
acrylic, spray paint, modelling paste, Plexiglas, glitter, velvet, rhinestones and plastic gold chain on canvas
122 x 172.7 cm. (48 x 67 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2019.

Full Cataloguing

HK$600,000 - 900,000 

Sold for HK$2,646,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 22 June 2022