Diego Singh: unimodern gondolieri

Various Small Fires is pleased to present, unimodern gondolieri, the first Los Angeles solo exhibition by Argentinean artist Diego Singh (b. Salta, Argentina, lives and works in Miami and New York).


The artist’s signature “denim” paintings, Rothko-esque in their scale and oceanic masses of pigment, will compete for wall space with his more recent text-based “captcha” series. Some of these paintings have taken nearly a decade to produce, marked by countless luminescent layers of paint that overwhelm the viewer. In the cult of modernist aesthetics, the two-dimensional picture plane has the potential to be a site for spiritual transcendence. Like many heroic modernist paintings, Singh’s canvases too possess the rare capacity to harbor the sublime within its linen shores.


Emotional outpour, however, is outlawed in Singh’s world–determintately stunted in exchange for a state of repression. Upon closer inspection, the intoxicating layers of midnight blue reveal themselves as merely painted representations of denim. The “denimization” of Singh’s paintings take place at the very end of his process, where years of painted layers are treated with a final coating of blue that seals the surface like ointment on an open wound. But why is the viewer forced to face the banal reality of denim–that ultimate index of the everyday? Through denim, Singh desacralizes the site of transcendence and sends subjectivity back into a state of confusion, delivering yet another blow to modernist painting’s tumultuous legacy.


In dialogue with Singh’s denim canvases are his more recently developed captcha series. Captchas, conventionally defined, are a type of challenge-response test used in computing to ensure that the response is generated by a person. It is a litmus test for subjectivity. In contemporary culture, these linguistic puzzles not only represent the mass industrialization and standardization of the human touch, but it also embodies subjectivity’s contemporary state of conflict and distress. Through these bastardized, Christopher Wool-like karaoke texts, Singh’s captchas tease out the absurdity of the anti-subjective assertion of the text in Conceptual Art. Instead, Singh sources his captchas from textual fragments from his own blog, which ruminate on subjects as varied as Regis De Bray’s Revolution within the Revolution to the artist’s own musings on style. Curiously, however, these once digestible texts online become schitzophrenic on canvas. Language lessens its grip on meaning, marking a historical moment in painting where the sea that once divided text from image is drying up.


The title of the show, unimodern gondolieri, is itself a captcha, loosely alluding to a number of topics that the artist’s own interests traverse and challenge (modernism, universalism, Kippenberger’s gondolas, Various Small Fires, Venice Beach). Like Singh’s denim, his captcha phrases are forced into a smothered state of distress. Human communication—whether linguistic or emotional—is trapped between neither here nor there but is still decidedly on a road to somewhere with an exit.



Diego Singh (b. Salta, Argentina) pursued a master’s in Social Communications at the Kennedy University in Buenos Aires and then entered the prestigious National Council for Technological and Scientific Investigation (CONICET) in Argentina as a research assistant of Surrealist poetry expert, Graciela Maturo.


Major solo exhibitions include Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo; Fredric Snitzer Gallery, Miami; Mendes Wood Gallery, Sao Paulo; McLemoi Gallery, Sydney; Annarumma Gallery, Napoli (upcoming). Selected group exhibitions include The de la Cruz Collection, Miami; The Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami; and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise at Passerby, New York amongst many others. Singh’s works are in collections including The de la Cruz Collection, Miami-Key Biscayne; The Chadha Art Collection, Netherlands; The Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami; John Smith and Vicky Hughes Collection in London and The Drake Art Collection in the Netherlands.


In 2009, Singh also co-founded with Clayton Deutsch in Miami TERRI AND DONNA, which exhibited artists like Blake Rayne, Georgia Sagri, Felix Larreta-Mitre, and Jim Drain, along with the curatorial collective of Esther Kim Varet and Tairone Bastien.