Merging past and present, Singer’s work displays a technical virtuosity that is as modern as it is historic. She starts by constructing her composition with computer modelling before transferring the image onto canvas. Building an exquisite range of subtly graded tones that borders on the photographic, Singer then uses an airbrush to complete her immaculately calibrated grisaille works. Of this attempt at a technological form of trompe l’oeil, Singer said in 2013, the same year as the present work was executed, “I saw Frtiz Glarner’s Rockefeller Dining Room (1963-64) in Zurich and the grisaille trompe l’oeil hallways in the Vatican with the past year, and these spaces just sort of rocked my world in a way I can’t describe. Despite my claims of being interested in innovative technological forms, what I’m doing has obvious antecedents that go back 500 to 600 years” (Avery Singer cited in: Lauren Cornell, ‘Hyperreal, If You Like’, Flash Art, Vol. 48, July 2015, p.50). Both the trompe l’oeil and the grisaille techniques are painterly methods that are rarely found in the arsenal of the contemporary painter- partly due to the high level of technical skill needed to execute them. In resurrecting these styles, Singer boldly places herself alongside the great grisaille and trompe l’oeil masters from Bruegel to Van Eyck to Mantegna.
With its exaggerated yet graceful sense of proportion and its nod toward primitivism, Untitled joins a series of works in which Singer drew from seminal modernist sculptures. While another work draws directly from a Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure, the present work speaks to various modernist concerns: the elongated necks of Picasso sculptures, the refined simplicity of form in Hans Arp’s marbles and the violent undertones of Max Ernst’s bronzes. Indeed, for all its revolutionary use of technology, it also speaks profoundly to the rarefied and historic tradition of painting sculpture. Turning again to Picasso, who perhaps most famously incorporated his own sculptures into his painting and prints, Untitled displays the artist’s canonical knowledge of art history and her ability to amplify and rejuvenate its significance within a contemporary context. There are few other artists working today with such a wide ranging and sophisticated reference pool. Marrying cutting edge technological innovation with references to some of art history’s founding fathers, Untitled is a virtuosic declaration that technology does not necessarily mean a break from the past. Rendered with the technical skill of a great master, it is an affirmation of the past’s value to inform the present.
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