It’s that time of the year when we pause to take stock of the artists that caught our eye in 2016, while also looking ahead at the packed roster of exciting museum and gallery exhibitions in the months to come across the United States. There is no shortage of dynamic artists to pay attention to right now, and that’s a great thing, given the somber mood after a bruising, unprecedented presidential election.
With this in mind, artnet News brings you our picks for some of the most vibrant, exciting artists at work from coast to coast.
1. Jordan Wolfson (b. New York. Lives and works in New York.)
The artist keeps dreaming up clever ways to simultaneously terrorize and transfix audiences. Two years ago it was an animatronic Female Figure in a white baby doll dress with a grotesque mask, that stared viewers in the face (the Broad Museum in Los Angeles acquired one of an edition of three). This past spring, Wolfson outdid himself when David Zwirner gallery installed Colored Sculpture, a large dangling puppet with animatronic eyes, that was a cross between Howdy Doody and Huck Finn, with chained limbs that were violently jerked around the gallery, crashing into the floor over and over again. At times, the iconic 1960s song “When a Man Loves a Woman,” played at ear-splitting volume, broke through the din.
The piece managed to be funny, poignant and heartbreaking all at once. Colored Sculpture went on view late last month at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (through January 26) as the first of a two-part solo show there titled “MANIC/LOVE” and “TRUTH/LOVE,” respectively. The latter, which is planned for Feb 18–April 23, 2017, will feature Female Figure, along with a new video installation, Riverboat Song (2016).
Look out for more of Wolfson’s work in the next edition of the Whitney Biennial.
2. Titus Kaphar (b. Kalamazoo, MI. Lives and works in New York and Connecticut.)
Audiences can’t seem to get enough of Titus Kaphar’s masterful paintings that appropriate style and imagery across the canon, while addressing racism head on.
The artist debuted at New York’s Shainman Gallery in 2015 with a splash—a two-part solo show “Asphalt and Chalk” and “Drawing The Blinds” that capped a string of successes. Time magazine commissioned him to create a painting addressing the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Titled, Yet Another Fight for Remembrance (2014), the piece depicted black men with their arms raised in the “hands up, don’t shoot” pose that has been ubiquitous at demonstrations against police violence.
His next much-anticipated solo show at Jack Shainman gallery, “Shifting Skies,” opens December 16, 2016 and runs through January 28, 2017.
3. Daniel Arsham (b. Cleveland, OH. Lives and works in New York.)
Daniel Arsham’s “Circa 2345” at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin on the Upper East Side—his first New York solo show—was a certified Instagram and selfie-friendly success.It also marked the first time that the artist, who is color blind, went beyond black-and-white imagery.
After walking through a series of vivid sports-related objects—blue calcite footballs, baseballs, helmets, and fan jackets—visitors wandered into a mind-altering violet-hued “grotto” of sorts, titled, Amethyst Sports Ball Cavern (2016), featuring a glowing basketball sculpture. Arsham told artnet News that he imagined the objects “as if they’ve been uncovered on some future archaeological site.” With respect to the amethyst cavern, Arsham explained that the installation is the latest in a series of “fictional archaeological spaces” where he was looking back at culture from antiquity onward.
On February 25, 2017, Arsham’s “HOURGLASS” opens at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.
4. Tamara Gonzales (b. Madera, CA. Lives and works in Brooklyn.)
One of the first exhibitions we’re looking forward to seeing in the new year is Tamara Gonzales’s solo show at Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery on January 6.
“Ometeotl,” her second solo show at the gallery, will feature new paintings, drawings, and woven tapestries. These three distinct branches of Gonzales’s work will be shown together for the first time, revealing her multifaceted practice.
5. Rashid Johnson (b. Chicago. Lives and works in New York.)
Johnson basically stormed Hauser & Wirth‘s West Chelsea space this past fall with “Fly Away,” a riff on the influential 1929 hymn “I’ll Fly Away,” and featuring new paintings and sculpture as well as a monumental installation that took advantage of the gallery’s cavernous, soaring architecture.
The well-received show saw Johnson exploring themes of history, yearning, and escape while furthering his interest into the relationship between art, society, and personal identity. The artist’s solo show, “Rashid Johnson: Hail We Now Sing,” opens February 9, 2017, at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri. It’s on view until May 21.
6. Liz Craft (b. Los Angeles. Lives and works in LA.)
One of the most memorable parts of the Whitney Museum’s fabulous group show “Mirror Cells” this past spring was Liz Craft’s fantastical, surreal multi-media installations, which consisted of wooden women striking strange poses and sprouting random spider webs. The scene created a sense of intrigue and darkness both at once.
In the year ahead, keep an eye out for Craft’s signature surreal works at shows including Liszt in Berlin with Pentti Monkkonen, and group shows at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles; Weiss Falk, in Basel, Musee d’art Moderne de la Ville in Paris, and at the Orange County Museum of Art, California.
7. Maggie Lee (b. Westfield, NJ. Lives and works in New York.)
Having also wowed crowds with work in the Whitney’s “Mirror Cells,” Maggie Lee was also a standout at the “Positions” section of the the most recent Art Basel in Miami Beach with a solo show at Greenpoint Brooklyn gallery Real Fine Arts. She turned the booth into a blown-up version of one of her smaller glass tanks, which tend to reference scenarios such as a 1970s teen girl’s room or an empty nightclub.
Look for more of Lee’s work at forthcoming group shows in 2017 at Kunshalle Zurich (March) and T293 Gallery, Naples (February).
8. Amy Yao (b. Los Angeles. Lives and works in New York.)
Another standout in the “Positions” section of Art Basel in Miami Beach was the booth of always cutting-edge Los Angeles gallery Various Small Fires, which chose to highlight work by Amy Yao. The artist focuses on tragedies surrounding manufacturing, contamination, and environmental racism. A large pile on the floor, titled Doppelgängers II (2016) references an incident in China where consumers were sold a mixture of rice mixed with other materials–including PVC plastics—for consumption.
In the coming year, Yao will have solo shows at 47 Canal in New York, and at Édouard Montassut in Paris, and will also be part of a group show at the Musée D’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.
9. Jennifer Rubell (b. New York. Lives and works in Miami.)
Rubell has become well known for her participatory artwork that blends performance art, installation, and events. The pieces are often monumental in scale and engage the senses, frequently incorporating food and drink as media—a mass of ribs with honey dripping on them from the ceiling, for instance, or 2,000 hard-boiled eggs with a mountain of gloves nearby for handling.
Lower East Side gallery Sargent’s Daughters was the site of a 2014 show, “Brad Jones” an ongoing collaboration between Rubell and artist Brandi Twilley that began in 2013. The title is a loose reconfiguration of the artists’ first names, and was imagined as belonging to the next sensational, aggressive American (male) painter.
Rubell’s first solo New York show, “Housewife,” opens at Sargent’s Daughters on January 18, 2017.
10. Matthew Brannon (b. St. Maries, ID. Lives and works in New York.)
At this past January’s edition of Art Los Angeles Contemporary, we loved David Kordansky’s booth. It was given over to a solo presentation of Matthew Brannon’s new works, and was clearly a much-buzzed about highlight of the fair.
Brannon has used his distinctive “mid-century graphic design,” to delve into the era of the Vietnam War, specifically through the lens of the four presidents who held office during the lead-up to and exit from the protracted conflict.
Next fall, Kordansky Gallery is planning a solo show of Brannon’s works, so get ready.
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