‘European Ego Ideal’ – Avery Singer

Client: Phillips

New York Auction November, 2021

Acrylic on canvas
100 x 120 in. (254 x 304.8 cm)
Painted in 2014

“I see the figuration as being semi-narrative. It’s kind of satirizing nostalgic tropes of how artists conduct their lives and careers.”
—Avery Singer

Spanning a monumental 10 feet in length, European Ego Ideal is an extraordinary example of Avery Singer’s singular pictorial vernacular that straddles the digital and the painterly, past and present, representation and reality. One of the pioneering artists of her generation, Singer fuses the aesthetics of Cubism, Surrealism, and Constructivism with her cutting-edge sensibility of referencing the digital age, resulting in enigmatic compositions that are at once richly influenced by her artistic predecessors and forward-thinking with futuristic drive. Painted in 2014, the present work belongs to the early pivotal works that launched her career: black-and-white, filmic scenes from the life of an artist, the figures rendered as blocky computer graphic characters. Here, the present work depicts five alluring vignettes of individual figures emerging from a pitch-black background with cinematic theatricality. After featuring in the artist’s acclaimed solo show at the Kunsthalle Zürich from 2014-2015, European Ego Ideal was presented at the 13th Lyon Biennial and subsequently at Singer’s first major institutional exhibition in Europe, Avery Singer: Scenes, at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam in 2016.

European Ego Ideal showcases the artist’s engagement with Picasso that recurs through this earlier period of her oeuvre, as seen in her The Studio Visit and Performance Artists of 2012, as well as Happening and Director of 2014. Here, she conjures some of the Cubist master’s most famous subjects—his musicians, embodied in the flutist at the top right and guitarist at center, as well as his nudes in the figure at the bottom left. Transforming them into robot-like figures bordering on futurist manga characters and staging them in dramatic light, Singer combines the power of hyperbole and illusionism that engenders the seductive quality of her work. As Sven Loven observes, “We welcome hyperbole as an affront to darkness. Power in hyperbole. Power in histrionics. Power in theater, on a stage where the actors are unreal, but the vision is clear; where the effect is fantastical, but the tableau convincingly lucid. Like a maquette given life, like a step into the uncanny valley, into a world of deceit not yet made wholly deceptive…Through the lies of illusionism, the deceit of simulacra (depth of field, picture-in-picture, soft focus), [Avery’s] images seek to assure us of the validity of our own confusion in the face of cacophony. It is in this assurance that we can find comfort and peace, a ground to stand on. And perhaps this feeling may prove to be the height of seduction.”

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