An interview with Avery Singer as users bid on her first NFT

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There’s something timely and exciting in how New York-based artist Avery Singer’s work questions the definition of painting through the merging of digital and analog techniques. In her own words, she uses “contemporary technology and unconventional painting mediums to represent our time,” and, in reflection, her work is lauded for helping push painting forward in a hyper-digital age. We’re excited for the minting of Singer’s genesis work on SuperRare, White Claw 18th Century Variety Pack, this April 24th and, with this in mind, SuperRare’s Chief Curator, Alessio De Vecchi, sat down with her last Tuesday to discuss her work, digital art as a reflection of our generation, and the future of the CryptoArt market.

SuperRare: How would you explain your art to someone who is just discovering it now?

Avery Singer: I think a lot about this particular Nina Simone quote: “It’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live.” I use contemporary technology and unconventional painting mediums to represent our time. Utilizing digitally produced imagery alongside manual and robotic airbrushing, I produce large-scale paintings for exhibitions in museums and galleries across the globe. 

Why do you think digital art is going mainstream just now?

I don’t think it’s going mainstream now.  I’ve been working with digital art since I discovered it at age 6 after inheriting my cousin’s floppy disk computer, and it was already proliferating then.  I made my first website when I was 8 years old. I was bored, so I taught myself how to code in HTML and made what was essentially a proto-blog of my favorite art from the internet.  The software used to create digital art has become more complex since then, but that hasn’t stopped more and more people from creating digital art. Digital production has become embedded in our culture.

Do you consider your work an expression and catalyst of this change?

Yes, I do.  If I take on a painterly technique that seems “conservative” or “old fashioned” I try to use it ironically.  I don’t think it’s relevant to try and earnestly replicate aesthetics from the past.  I love the printed works of Wade Guyton, and the use of silkscreen in the practices of Laura Owens & Christopher Wool.  These techniques allowed them to uniquely remove the presence of the human hand, which has an artistic lineage beginning with Andy Warhol.  I also wanted to remove my hand, but in order for it to be relevant to my generation and in the spirit of artistic innovation, I had to figure out how to do that uniquely. It occurred to me the most meaningful way to that would be to execute it digitally.  

Avery Singer, Performance Artists (version), 2020. © Avery Singer. Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth, and Kraupa- Tuskany Ziedler, Berlin. Photo: Kate Enman
You seem to be a very tech-savvy painter. How does technology influence your work and how does it play into your current practice?

Most recently, I found a company in Japan producing room-sized airbrush printing robots, which utilize 3D files as well as image files.  Their intended market is niche: logos on trucks and airplanes. I decided to buy one of these, install it in my studio, and re-tool it conceptually for my paintings.  I also utilize DAZ3D to make image files for these works, and incorporate models generated in SketchUp in these and other paintings.

Does NFT as a medium allow you to explore the tech side of your practice further?

I first learned about NFTs in 2017, when I participated in an art & tech panel hosted by Rhizome, called Seven on Seven.  I was partnered with Matt Liston (founder of Augur and co-founder of Gnosis), and we presented a consensus-based religion called 0xΩ by performing its first religious ceremony on the panel.  Matt introduced me to a lot of different concepts in the crypto world, which I had formerly not been exposed to.  DAOs, NFTs, ICOs, etc, hell, I didn’t even know what Coinbase or Gemini were, let alone Metamask!  He helped me set all these things up.  Since then, NFTs have really taken off, and I thought it would be an interesting opportunity to showcase my digital work in this format.

Avery Singer, Studio, 2019. © Avery Singer. Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth, and Kraupa-Tuskany Ziedler, Berlin.Photo: Lance Brewer
Can you tell me about your first NFT release and how it relates to your traditional body of work?

My first NFT is a study for my current painting series.  In it, I’ve modeled a bar environment in DAZ3D.  Taking inspiration from Assassin’s Creed, Robespierre gets progressively bloodied and battered by a female assassin.  The bar is littered with White Claw drinks in 18th century french flavors, as a kind of satire of Americans romanticizing drinking culture, but still consuming it in a trashy and American way.  In some scenes, Robespierre sips on these while operating a military drone from a computer gaming system, and doodles Wojak memes on bar napkins out of boredom.  The undercurrent to this work is a lampooning of contemporary Americana.

What are your thoughts on meme culture and its influence on your work and contemporary art in general?

I make a lot of Wojak paintings.  One I recently completed looks like someone stepped into a misty shower with a glass enclosure, and using their finger drew into the condensation an elaborate Wojak battle scene which takes place in a suburban teenager’s basement gaming room.  Memes are essentially cartoons and epigrams for viewers with a GIF’s attention span.  I spend a lot of time trying to analyze their visual and linguistic construction, how they’re able to shorten words and sentences but still carry clear meaning is an interesting phenomenon to me.

Do you play video games? Would you ever create conceptual art for one?

I used to play tons of video games as a kid, then I became more interested in the computer.  If I had enough time and an interesting invitation to come up with one, I’d absolutely love to conceptualize one.

Do you see a correlation between the traditional art market and the NFT art market?

Yes, there are many similarities, and also many differences.  You have your “art stars,” and they have their own personal narratives that collectors romanticize. In terms of the market, the NFT world is significantly more equitable for artists, as they receive a greater percentage on the primary sale, and they even get a guaranteed percentage on a resale, the latter of which doesn’t exist in the traditional art realm.

Do you trust blockchain to be a democratizing medium and, if so, to what benefit?

The blockchain utilizes consensus mechanisms, so, the more people use it, the more democratizing it will become.  I’m incredibly excited to see where it goes and what it accomplishes. Blockchain is the future, and I’m proud that it’s a product of my generation.

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