Artist to Watch

5 Artists To Watch: August 2019


5 Artists To Watch: August 2019
Installation view of Donna Huanca: CELL ECHO at Yuz Museum, Shanghai via LA Mag

Just because the entire art world goes on vacation in August, doesn't mean there aren't shows to see and artists to watch. Here's who we have on our radar this sweaty, sweaty month.


Fierman Gallery, New York, NY
June 20 - August 10

Paula, 2015 via Huffpost

Born in Somalia and raised in a Muslim househould in Kenya, gender-fluid, self-taught artist Uman makes mysterious, painterly patchworks from fugitive experience and soft-diffusing memory, mapping her creative impulse in broad, jubilant gestures. Her collages, compositions, and objects of adornment bear their shared mantle of “outsider art” status with a bright, effervescent fury that avoids the stodgy academic pitfalls of her more establishment-adjacent peers. Her color palette is inspired by fleeting impressions from her Kenyans childhood, a place she hasn’t visited since her initial emigration to Europe. Upon her arrival in New York, she sold her pieces in Union Square to make money, teasing out whether or not art was going to be her calling; her family background didn’t place a lot of stock in creativity, and her first encounters with museums and oil painting took place at ages 17 and 30, respectively. Gleaning inspiration from school days spent practicing Arabic with ink, Uman deploys a distinctly calligraphic hand in her pieces, utilizing a pathos-infused method of addition and removal to adjust their color gradients. Living somewhere between ritual and confession, Uman’s work approaches the chaotic abundance of daily life with unabashed excitement. Check out her latest rumination on exile and longing at Fierman Gallery in Chinatown. 



Sculpture in the City, London, UK
June 27 - April 2020

Leite in the studio via VNB  

The 9th edition of London’s Sculpture in the City will extend the tenure of Juliana Cerqueira Leite’s Climb (2012) through early fall of 2019, much to the good fortune of any viewers looking to take in some culture with their stroll through Mitre Square. Brazilian artist Leite splits her time between New York and Sao Paulo, and graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art MFA Sculpture program in 2006. Since, she has picked up a number of prestigious honors, including a Furla Art Prize for her contribution to the 5th Moscow Young Art Biennale and representation of Brazil in the 2014 Vancouver Sculpture Biennial. Her sculptures reify a physical record of absence, reformulating subjecthood as memorial action rather than directional procedure. Her research on the history of ancient Amazonian funerary urns equip her felt, affectual vessels with far-reaching intellectual depth, producing the kind of gut-punching immediacy that stuns in its expertly deployed directness. There's a haptic madness at play in Leite's work, and nowhere is that investment made clearer than Climb, the form of which is a cast of the space left in a volume of clay that the artist physically crawled up and through. Stay tuned for a solo exhibition opening in May 2019 at the Naples National Archeological Museum in Italy. 


Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles
June 28 - December 1 

Huanca in the studio via Sleek Magazine

Chicago-born Huanca has long operated at the axis of painting, sculpture, performance, choreography, and video, creating living landscapes dedicated to the spatial identity of artistic expression. Her focus on collaboration foregrounds and problematizes viewer experience, urging onlookers to confront their initial responses to human involvement in space typically meant for two or three dimensional objects. The body as object, the body as anti-static, takes center stage in Huanca's theatrical tableaus, courting the theoretical reaches of ephemerality without providing any anchoring thesis. Huanca's work re-casts painting as a performative enterprise, a tactile dialogue written through gesture. The Berlin-based artist has taken her forward-looking vision for interdisciplinary practice to the Marciano Art Foundation in Los Angeles with Obsidian Ladder, a project that subverts the legacy of Yves Klein's aesthetic in self-possessed terms. Huanca came to prominence two years ago at Art Basel, when the gallery that represents her, Peres Projects, presented her eight-day, eight hour performances facilitated two painted, nude models camouflaged by their expressionistically rendered environment. "Obsidian Ladder" has received a flurry of excited press, setting this University of Houston and Skowhegan graduate's star on a decidedly upward course. 


Art Gallery NSW, Australia
May 11 - September 8

The artist in front of her painting, Seven Sisters, via NITV

This year's prestigious Wynne Prize, the $50,000 annual award for exceptional Australian landscape painting, was granted back in May to Sylvia Klein, whose expressive, contemplative painting inspired by the Aboriginal story of the Seven Sisters is currently on view at the Art Gallery of New South Wales alongside Archibald Portrait Prize winner Tony Costa and Sir John Sulman Prize winner McLean Edwards. Ken was born and educated in the Amata community of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatyjara lands in South Australia. Her family are traditional owners for culturally significant sites, and her constellative motifs, both painted and printed in batik on silk, have long tracked the indigenous world-building of the Pleiades, a star cluster known as Taurus. Ken envisions her painting practice as a form of Tjukurpa, or the foundational tenets of life and society manifested both personally and socially in members of the Anangu. Ken, born in 1965, is a three-time finalist for the Telstra National indigenous Art Award and has enjoyed significant international success, showing her work throughout Australian, Singabore, America and Europe. 


Aicon Gallery, New York, NY
August 8 - September 14

Ghulam Mohammad via The National

Pakistani-born artist Mohammad makes multi-valent, precise works on paper that belie preoccupation with linguistic aesthetics; his pieces recombine calligraphic texts into new and fresh arrangements, assembling disused books in haunting, inviting ways. Individual letters are excised from out-of-print Urdu books on the subject of language, and those scripts are then remixed into dense, brooding, but un-failingly celebratory reliquaries to culture. Simultaneously un-and hyper-communicative, these works bear the burden of history with uncommon grace, inviting viewers into the associative, organic inner monologue of the artist. Mohammad, who was trained in Quetta, also imbues his gestures with no small amount of geo-political commentary. His pieces figuratively shred nostalgia, speaking both to the legacy of Partition and the fugitive austerity of cultural memory. His solo exhibition at Aicon Gallery, Gunjaan, is sure to provide no shortage of historical insight. 


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