The American artist’s late paintings of intimate domestic scenes presciently reflect our current zeitgeist, at a time when detailed visual documentation of ordinary life has never been more prevalent and the question of normality is fiercely debated. By Thea Hawlin
A confession: I was introduced to Milton Avery’s work on Instagram. I saw him first on a scroll, my eyes caught on the fields of vivid colour, the swerve of a cream thigh, the triangular shadow of a crooked elbow. Not a traditional introduction to a master of fine arts admittedly, but an introduction nonetheless.
Born in New York in 1885, Avery’s world is Tetris-like; contours give way to clear borders. It is all colour and clear demarcations, the arch of a raised kneecap, a curved back: the forms of life split into shapes. Filled with simple compositions of domestic scenes, these paintings lend themselves to the square-blocked online visual world we curate and consume daily. Striking shapes and clashing colours catch the eye—his subjects stick in a scrolling world: swimmers relax on a Maine beach; a woman curls round a good book; people crowd about a table in convivial conversation. The work springs from life. Its allure? Honesty.
Image: Milton Avery, Lavender Girl, 1963
Courtesy The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation and Victoria Miro, London/Venice