Artist to Watch

6 Artists to Watch This January

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6 Artists to Watch This January
Mirosław Bałka

MIROSŁAW BAŁKA
On Stellar Rays, January 11 – February 14

Known for his massive installations built from industrial materials that take the menace implicit in Minimalism and throttle it into overdrive, the Polish Mirosław Bałka is well known on the European museum and biennial circuit—his 2009 work in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, which resembled a monumental cattle car (with a ramp leading visitors into its pitch-black interior), stunned audiences—but he has only shown rarely in New York. This month, fans will have the chance to see his impressively oppressive handiwork at On Stellar Ray’s first group show of the year, “Rotrixagatze,” albeit at a scale suited for the Lower East Side and not, say, dOCUMENTA. 

LETHA WILSON
Jack Hanley,  January 9 - February 8

With photography now going through the same identity crisis that painting went through a century and a half ago at the advent of photography—the question then was “what’s special about painting the world realistically when you can take a photo,” now it’s “what’s special about taking a photo when everyone takes a photo of everything all the time”—artists have been searching the edges of the medium to find a compelling way forward. One of the newer pioneers in this quest is Letha Wilson, whose work surrealistically combining photography with architectural elements (sometimes printing the images on concrete) gained avid attention when she was included in several well-received group shows last year, such as “What Is a Photograph” at the ICP and “Ain’tings” at Robert Blumenthal Gallery. Now she’s kicking off 2015 in yet another group show, this time at Jack Hanley, where she’ll be in the excellent company of other sculptors and photographers, including Ryan Foerster and Sarah Braman.

DAN WALSH
Paula Cooper, January 7 - February 14

For two and a half decades, the painter Dan Walsh has been dipping into the visual vocabulary of Minimalism—squares, grids, lozenges, bands—to create deceptively simple jewel-hued canvases that, when the eye lingers, seem to pulsate and bulge into space. Appreciated by in-crowd tastemakers (he’s been included in groups shows at Lisa Cooley, the Journal, Martos, and Dodge) and featured in last year’s Whitney Biennial, Walsh is debuting new work this month at his longtime gallery, Paula Cooper.

DIANA THATER
David Zwirner, January 8 - February 21

A video artist known for melding themes of nature, technology, and the uncanny (or “magic,” as she puts it), Diana Thater has steadily evolved her work over the past 20 years to extend beyond the flat screen on the wall and into the gallery space. For her latest show at David Zwirner, “Science Fiction,” Thater—who will be receiving a survey at LACMA this fall—is presenting her most enveloping environment to date: “involving an enclosed video projection, ceiling screen, and light, as well as two new video walls,” the installation will be an operatic examination of the internal navigation system of the dung beetle, the only animal that guides itself by its relative position to the Milky Way.

RYAN MCNAMARA
Mary Boone January 8 - February 28 

Just when you think you have him pinned down to a certain stye or approach, Ryan McNamara surprises you with his versatility. First getting attention for his ballet-informed performances, he won plaudits when he transformed Elizabeth Dee Gallery into a photo studio in 2011, where he invited visitors off the street to pose in a variety of colorful, costume-enhanced tableaux, and then further bowled over the critics with his 2013 Performa commission “MEEM: A Ballet for the Internet,” a dance performance translating the visuality of the Internet into three dimensions that McNamara restaged during the last Art Basel Miami Beach. For his latest show at Mary Boone, curated by Piper Marshall, the artist has deked again, presenting new groups of sculptures (iPhone-wielding disembodied hands, t-shirt panels, snakelike hybrids of arms and legs resembling brutally pared-down dancers) that both synthesize his earlier works and enter new terrain.  

LIZ CRAFT
Shoot the Lobster, January 8 - February 1

It can be hard to believe your eyes when looking at Liz Craft’s sculptures. For one thing, the scenarios they present—a top-hatted skeleton braiding the tail of a life-sized “My Little Pony” unicorn, for instance, a naked, six-armed woman with a fox’s head wielding a rope—are so persuasively realized that they look like the work of first-rate CGI. For another thing, you wonder why someone when through such obvious effort, and put to use such evident virtuosity, in pursuit of something so downright goofy. Her art, to put it another way, is completely delightful. In addition to being an artist, Craft is also an entrepreneur, and she founded the Los Angeles gallery Paradise Garage with her husband, the artist Pentti Monkonen, as well as the new indie-darling art fair Paramount Ranch, which is returning at the end of this month. As an East Coast preview of sorts for that event, the two just opened a new collaborative show at New York’s Shoot the Lobster gallery. Check it out, why don’t you?

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