For the second edition of the series Schultze Projects, the American artist Avery Singer has created a new, site-specific work for the stairwell at the Museum Ludwig. The seven-part work is over seventeen meters long and three and a half meters high. The name of the series refers to Bernard Schultze and his wife Ursula (Schultze-Bluhm), whose estate is managed by the Museum Ludwig, and in whose memory every two years since 2017 an artist has been invited to create a major work for the prominent front wall of the stairwell.
Avery Singer (born in 1987 in New York) is known for her large-scale canvases in which she depicts references to art history and clichéd scenes from the cultural milieu, such as a studio visit, a performance, and ideas about the bohemian life of artists. The tableaux, which show arrangements of Cubist-looking mannequins, have a humorous and dystopian appearance. Some of the figures seem like virtual characters, avatars that have been taken directly out of art history or the current art world in order to hold a mirror to it. In her current work for Cologne, Singer draws on motifs from earlier works, such as Performance Artists, Happening, Flute Soloist, and Heidiland, whose titles reveal that the subjects come from the broader field of the arts. In their sometimes ironic exaggeration, these pictures demonstrate that neoliberal economization does not stop at studios and museums, and in fact instrumentalizes the ideal of artistic creativity.
In her painting Singer deliberately contrasts sharpness with blurriness, creating atmospheric spaces reminiscent of computer games and other digital contexts. In her current painting for the Museum Ludwig, she creates irrational spaces overlaid with grid structures. The combination of different forms and figures, some of which are blurred, creates unclear perspectives and strange shifts in perception. Occasionally there are contradictions of light and shadow, and individual fragments seem to visually emerge from the pictorial space.
Singer develops her motifs in computer programs such as SketchUp, which is used to simulate architectural spaces and is also the tool of choice for planning exhibitions. She projects the designs onto a canvas that has been primed in several layers and polished, creates a preliminary drawing, then tapes the edges and applies the acrylic paint with an airbrush. Depending on the size of the work, this can take several weeks or months. With her complex and unusual painting process and its digital aesthetic, Singer fundamentally reflects on the status of images as well as their effect and distribution in an environment increasingly shaped by new media and technologies.
Early on in her career, Avery Singer received a remarkable amount of international attention. She has had solo exhibitions at the Kunsthalle Zürich (2014), the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (2015), the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (2016), and most recently the Kölnischer Kunstverein (2017). She also participated in the 2016 anniversary exhibition We Call It Ludwig: The Museum Is Turning 40! at the Museum Ludwig and the 2019 Venice Biennale.
From 1968 on, Bernard Schultze and his wife Ursula (Schultze-Bluhm) lived and worked as artists in Cologne. For decades they were a fixture of the city’s cultural life and had a particularly close relationship with the Museum Ludwig. The museum now holds a large part of their artistic estate. Bernard Schultze was one of the pioneers of Art Informel in Germany with his works from the early 1950s. The large-scale format was a central aspect of his later work. It represents the substantial reference point for the artists invited to participate in Schultze Projects.