Unveiling nearly a dozen monumental paintings across two new series, “Reality Ender” marks New York-based Avery Singer’s highly anticipated debut at Hauser & Wirth. Singer—who was born in 1987 and raised amid New York City’s creative crowds—tends to riff on bohemian lifestyle tropes. Beer cans and wine bottles, which often appear strewn across fictive scenes, allude to boisterous drinking as a social imperative that doubles as thinly veiled escapism—a notion supported by the artist’s numerous portrayals of seemingly alienated figures slouched over in existential angst.
Across Singer’s work, the subtleties of emotional tumult come alive through crisp contours and complex patterns of light and shadow applied with mathematical precision. These qualities derive from her use of 3-D modeling software to design the initial image, which she then projects onto a canvas in order to replicate it, via airbrush, in acrylic paint. The outcome resonates with Cubists’ attempts to capture multiple dimensions on a flat plane, but Singer’s technical execution is so optically convincing that her compositions can feel hypnotic. At times, this captivating illusionistic effect can feel equally confounding, as when additional layers bring in new elements that complicate a painting’s primary subject.
The first of two series in “Reality Ender” continues the grisaille color scheme seen in Singer’s earlier bodies of work; likewise, her signature mannequin-esque human stand-ins return. In one of two new paintings titled Happening (2021)—a name shared by a trio of 2014 paintings that depict these figures engaged in various artistic exploits—a solitary central character reclines stomach-down on a workbench, absorbed in what looks to be an iPad, while several companions splay across the backdrop. One, lying underneath the workbench, reaches for a beer bottle.
In the second series—done in full color—Singer’s embrace of novel subject matter takes her intricate aesthetic to new and compelling directions. The enormous, photorealistic male visage that looms across Edgelord (2021) was modeled after a video game villain named Robespierre from “Assassin’s Creed.” Deformed by angular tracts of black pigment, his face is further obscured by fragmented comic strips inspired by Wojak, the ubiquitous internet meme.
In China Chalet (2021)—titled after the now-shuttered art world haunt that had been a go-to for after-parties, pre-pandemic—a jumble of transparent White Claw cans float, ghost-like, over a table strewn with abandoned iPhones, prescription drugs and poppers, among other evidence of late-night debauchery. Superimposed over this tableau, a layer of black scrawls looks to have been drawn with a Sharpie (a marker hovers in the upper left corner). In fact, the entire painting is acrylic. The intrigue here—as with much of Singer’s work—arises from one’s willingness to become lost in the image’s internal narrative, however complex. It’s a mental exercise that, upon encountering her paintings, becomes difficult to resist. —Rachel Small
Avery Singer, Wojak Battle Scene (Study), 2021. Acrylic on canvas stretched over wood panel, 9 1/4 x 12 x 1 3/4 inches. Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth, and Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin © Avery Singer. Photo: Lance Brewer.