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Artist to Watch

Artists to Watch in June 2018

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Artists to Watch in June 2018
Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa in a 2012 performance. Photo courtesy of the artist, via KCET.

MELISSA BROWN
Derek Eller, New York
May 31 - July 6

Image 0Melissa Brown, Image courtesy of Project:Artist 

We last saw emerging New York-based painter Melissa Brown's hallucinatory works at Derek Eller Gallery back in 2017, in an eclectic group exhibition curated by Dan Nadel that also featured the works of emerging sculptor Genesis Belanger; established installation artist and painter Mimi Gross; and the late American funk art painter Roy De Forest. Now Brown returns to the Lower East Side Gallery with a solo exhibition titled “Between States.” The artist’s latest works appear in the same vein as earlier works in terms of technique––involving a unique process of layering oil painting, screen-printing, air-brush and stenciling to mimic feelings of disorientation. Known for drawing inspiration from her immediate natural surroundings paired with cultural signifiers such as art historical references, a pack of playing cards, or long acrylic fingernails––here she uses nostalgic American imagery that she’d found while traversing America’s South. Accompanying the works is a text by Brown, in which she describes the freedom of aimlessness she’d experienced while road tripping last fall, writing “peeling out and slamming into being in the right place at the right time, the fantasy that reality is changeable: it’s what keeps us alive.” A funhouse mirror of faded American dreams, Brown’s newest works are an exciting direction for the artist.

NICHOLAS O’BRIEN
Knockdown Center, Queens
May 6 - July 1

Image via Chicago Artist Writers

Net-based artist, writer, and curator Nicholas O’Brien’s current solo show—involving a series of videos and a series of sculptures—is at the Knockdown Center in Maspeth, Queens, which lies within the floodplains around Newtown Creek, a waterway connecting Brooklyn and Queens to the East River, and one of the most polluted industrial sites in the US. It’s fitting, then, that the artist has made New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) stormwater collection program the central focus of his exhibition. A series of video animations use the aesthetics and language of designed documents published by the DEP, with the addition of O’Brien’s own alternatives (that prioritize things like soil biodiversity and the impact on people) as well as audio excerpts of recorded conversations that artist had with city officials, engineers, and experts. As if this exhibition wasn’t informative enough, the Knockdown Center is hosting a variety of events that provide additional resources and education surrounding stormwater collection. Based in Brooklyn and working primarily in digital/networked space, O’Brien often exhibits his work online—but he’s also shown in prestigious places like the Whitney (his collaborative work with Lorna Mills was in the 2016 “Dreamlands” exhibition), Creative Time in New York, the Portland Art Museum, and the MCA Chicago.

 

YIXUAN PAN 
Lighthouse Works, New York
June 16

pan yixuanImage courtesy of Yixuan Pan.

Coming away from one of Yixuan Pan’s works often leaves you with the same feeling of meditative spaciousness and lightness one may encounter in an Agnes Martin canvas. Born and raised in Hunan, China (the land of fish and rice, notes the artist’s statement), Pan approaches her artistic practice as a kind of ad-hoc linguist, delicately translating language's poetic idiosyncrasies and nuances into poignant works that are at once fragile and substantial. Take her performance piece, desk, cup, soap solution, me, glass speech device, a love letter (337 times of “要疯了”*), chair. In it, Pan speaks a love poem into a glass device that blows bubbles into a cup. As she speaks each word, a fragile bubble forms, eventually amassing into an overflowing froth, spilling beyond the cup's edges and finally beginning to pop gently and deflate. The visual metaphor is simple and quintessential of the quiet joy and beauty found in much of Pan’s works.

She is currently an artist in residence at Lighthouse Works on Fisher’s Island, New York where she will host an open studio on June 19th. Having received a masters in Glass from the Tyler School of Art, Pan’s relationship with the material offers a succinct medium by which the artist may question the linguistic structures people learn and unlearn in relation to comfort, temperature, transparency, hierarchy and power dynamics. Her upcoming works and exhibition at Lighthouse Works is sure to be an illuminating experience. 

 

JUSTINE KURLAND
Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York
May 24 - June 29

Justine Kurland Image courtesy of ArteFuse

Between 1997 and 2002, while studying at Yale, photographer Justine Kurland created her now-iconic series of works titled “Girl Pictures,” in which she staged scenes of runaway adolescent girls wandering in the woods, along the river, and under the highway. Initially the scenes were shot around her then base in New Haven, Connecticut, however through constructing these images, Kurland began to feel that she too needed to run away to attain a more authentic series. In 1998 she embarked on a cross-country journey staging more elaborate and deeply intimate scenes depicting young girls living in commune-like situations; spitting on boys, hopping trains, and covering each other’s skin with leeches. Now, 20 years later, the artist has printed all 69 photographs from the series and is exhibiting it in its entirety for the first time ever at New York’s Chelsea Gallery Mitchell-Innes and Nash.  

 

CHRIS KRAUS
Château Shatto, Los Angeles
March 24 - June 23

Image via Interview Magazine.

Chris Kraus may be best known as the author of the book I Love Dick, which was turned into a Netflix series staring Kathryn Hahn as Chris Kraus and Kevin Bacon as the eponymous Dick. The story is essentially about the artist trying to “make it” as a filmmaker, while not being consumed by the shadow of her more successful husband, Sylvère Lotringer, or by the seduction of Dick (both the person and the general idea)—which is why any fan of Kraus’s so highly-regarded writing is probably dying to see Kraus’s films. Now is your chance. On view at Château Shatto in Los Angeles are the only five films the artist made, the first in 1982 (before she started writing) and the last in 1995. For more on Chris Kraus, and to understand why her work is trending among young women artists especially, read “I Love Dick”: Why Women Artists in the Post-Digital Age Idolize Chris Kraus.” The show is up until June 23.

 


ANNE LIBBY
Night Gallery, Los Angeles
June 1 - July 6
Anne LibbyImage via Artsy

We first came across New York based artist Anne Libby’s work at the Independent Art Fair in March, where she was represented by lower east side gallery Magenta Plains at their inaugural booth at the fair. The artist’s sculptures are hard to miss––composed of hardware including steel glass wood and mylar, resembling topographical skyscraper blueprints. In her second solo exhibition at L.A.’s Night Gallery, the artist will present new works that draw influence from the reflections of skyscrapers mirroring one another, and the unexpected mechanical regeneration created by capitalism. Whereas her earlier works have been more aesthetically aligned with Art Nouveau, combining technology with natural forms, Libby’s newest sculptural works are interested in the relationship between the inner structures which hold things together and the soft outer layers. Using a grid as a base, she wraps Venetian blinds around the hardware––drawing to mind the structure and fragility of the human body.


EMILY MAE SMITH
Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin
June 9 — July 14

emily mae smithImage via Wide Rainbows

Emily Mae Smith’s paintings are effortlessly slick, cool, and seductive. They’re also subtly anxiety inducing, not unlike that implacable itch under your skin. The uncanny quality of her work places her within a similar ilk and vein of unsettling pop surrealists represented by the likes of fellow Brooklyn-based artist Jamian Juliano-Villani. Like Villani’s works, Smith’s canvases always seem on the precipice of violence. The difference is that while Villani’s subjects are usually arranged in a visual melee, Smith’s are graphic and composed. There is a kind of stillness to the tense precipice of Smiths’ works. Awash in sunset gradients, lush colors, and rounded edges, the content remains stark and rather punishing. Her compositions are minimal and pared down, offering the kind of allegorical interpretation you’d see in an advertisement. Anecdotally referred to as “broomstick lady,” Smith’s iconic re=appropriation of feminine motifs (like the animistic dancing brooms from Disney’s "Fantasia") highlight the historical absence of female authority within visual culture. Her reclamations are remarkably witty, tongue-in-cheek assertions of feminine power. Her upcoming show titled "Feast of Totems" at the Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin will be her first at the gallery, preceding the artist's upcoming institutional debut at Le Consortium in Dijon, France which opens in November. These new works in painting and drawing continue Smith’s exploration of feminine subversion and subjectivity, from a pair of black pumps with Roman columns as heels (talk about a #heelconcept) to a single, super-sized drop of blood floating amidst a black and white gradient. And of course, more of her eerie and mesmerizing faceless, animated broomsticks.



TEJAL SHAH
Mimosa House, London
June 1 — August 15

tejal shahImage via armelection.

In describing the import of Matthew Barney's groundbreaking video work Cremaster Cycle, art critic Jonathan Jones of the Guardian compared Barney to the poet T.S. Eliot, Cremaster Cycle being “the ‘Waste Land’ for a generation that grew up with Star Wars.” Ten years after the completion of Barney’s cycle, New Delhi-based artist Tejal Shah’s immersive 5-channel video installation Between the Waves (2012) emerges as Waste Land for a generation that grew up with Donna Haraway. Shah’s is the queer, feminist, Buddhist, anti-hegemonic approach to what Jones described as Barney’s quest to “salvage what in myth, ritual, and art is still accessible in the modern world.” Presupposing an end of days, Shah’s mythological future, unlike the alienating is one of compassion, cooperation and love; where a biodiverse family of hybrid creatures engages in a ritual trying to reconfigure what’s left. Presented by London’s Mimosa House, Between the Waves will be shown as part of Shah’s solo exhibition, “AS IT IS,” alongside a selection of the artist's recent works on paper, which explore Indian miniature paintings as a vessel for decolonization and fertile ground for queering. Their sensual work explores the interdependence of all life and the importance of care in times of ethical and ecological precarity. In keeping with the experimental and collaborative ethos encouraged at Mimosa House, the gallery will also be hosting a series of events presented by Shah and including fellow artists Anne Nora Fischer and Mo Maja Moesgaard as part of an on-site collaboration lasting ten days. Like the first creatures emerging after the destructive wake of a prehistoric ice age, Shah’s work boldly embraces a de facto apocalypse as a potential dawn for newer, queerer, and more compassionate mythologies.

 

NAUFUS RAMÍREZ-FIGUEROA
New Museum, New York
June 6 - September 9

Image via Frieze 

In the early 1980s, the Guatemalan government led a brutal, violent attack on its own people living in the country’s Chixoy River Valley. With the use of military-led force, they displaced entire villages inhabited by thousands of Achi Mayan people in order to carry out plans of building a hydroelectric dam—a dam that once built, caused flooding that submerged the ruins of the Late Mayan city of Kawinal (1100-1524 AD). This tragic history is the subject of Guatemalan artist Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa’s exhibition “The House at Kawinal” which opens at the New Museum June 6th. It will be the first solo exhibition in the United States by Ramírez-Figueroa, whose work—though dark and heavy in content—exudes a playful, whimsical nature (see header image!) with the use of performance, video and sculpture.

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