Artist to Watch

7 Artists to Watch in June 2019

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7 Artists to Watch in June 2019
West London, 1999 by Liz Johnson Artur.

From Venice and Milan to New York and Johannesburg, here are the exhibitions and artists we have our eyes on this month.

 

LIZZIE FITCH & RYAN TRECARTIN
Fondazione Prada, Milan
April 6 - August 5 

Installation view, "Whether Line" by Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin at Fondazione Prada, Milan. Image via Fondazione Prada.

For the last several years, Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin have sequested themselves to a property in rural Ohio to fashion a permentant, evolving set-slash-art amusement park replete with a “large hobby-barn commissary, a lazy river, and a forest watchtower.” Why? To produce the project that’s currently on view at Fondazione Prada in Milan. Comisioned for the venue, “Whether Line” includes video installations (typical of Fitch and Trecartin’s fracturing, feverish, sensory overloaded multi-channel video installations) within a larger build-out including fenced-in walkways and an indoor barn: an "immersive intervention where visitors navigate constructions suggesting both agency and containment, an active state of limbo…” in “distortions of familiar spaces such as amusement parks, homesteads, and fortifications.” The exhibition has been up since April 6, but it’s coming down next month and culminating with a video retrospective to be screened at Fondazione Prada’s Cinema—so if you happen to be in Milan, be sure to take a peep.

 

 

STEPHAN BALKENHOL
Galerie Forsblom, Stokholm, SE
May 17 - July 5

The artist at work via Galerie Folsom 

German artist Stephan Balkenhol’s current solo turn at Galerie Forsblom, Stolkholm, surveys his sly, wooden figural sculptures, a motif he’s been working with since the '80s. Balkenhol, who now resides in Meisenthal, France, studied under legends like Sigmar Polke and Nam June Paik during his education at the Hamburg School of Fine Arts, eventually campaigning to reintroduce the figure to Minimalist and Conceptualist frameworks of the day. His focus on the craft of hand-carving sits at the center of his practice, and the pedestal-forward pieces feel both refreshingly contemporary (his subjects are often outfitted in modern, every-day clothes) and historically inclined, cheekily referencing the legacy of colorful wood statuary in ancient Greece and the early Roman Empire. His pieces speak directly to the intersecting isolation and noisy community of mundane experience, questioning what exactly passes as an "everyman" in the age of identity. Balkenhol has shown all over the world throughout his storied career, including features at the Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, the Hirschorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Osaka, Japan. 

 

 

NJIDEKA AKUNYILI CROSBY
Victoria Miro, Venice
May 8 - July 13

Njideka Akunyili Crosby in front of her work. Image via Culture Type. 

If you don’t know Njideka Akunyili Crosby, do yourself a favor and look the woman up. She received the MacArthur Fellowship in 2017, was named one of The Financial Time’s Women of the Year in 2016, was named a Foreign Policy’s Leading 100 Global Thinkers of 2015, the same year she received the Next Generation Prize at the New Museum, and in 2014, she won the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s James Dicke Contemporary Art Prize. In just the past three years, she’s had solo shows at the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati. In the past five years, she’s shown her work at the Whitney, the New Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University among many others. Okay, enough about her impossibly impressive resume—here’s the deal with her work: detailed, pricise paintings and collages that in her most recent ongoing series “The Beautiful Ones,” are derived from photographs the artist has taken during her frequent trips to her home country of Nigeria. If you’re in Venice for the Biennial before July 13, be sure to stop by Victoria Miro to see the most recent works from this series, the title of which was taken from the 1968 novel by Ghanaian writer Ayi Kwei Armah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born.

 

 

GRACELEE LAWRENCE
Thierry Goldberg, New York
May 5 - June 9 

The artist with her work via her website

"Finger-Width," a solo exhibition of digitally fabricated sculptures by Brooklyn-based artist Gracelee Lawrence, is nearing the end of its tenure at New York’s Thierry Goldberg Gallery in the Lower East Side. A titular reference to the way farmers ascertain the ripeness of asparagus, Finger-Width tracks the outer reaches of anthropomorphic scale, fusing humanoid extremities with charmingly unexpected vegetative forms. These pastel agglomerations of unexpected, fluid features sidestep whimsy on their way to a weirder interrogation of the Ur-familiar, giving fresh new meaning to the phrase “uncanny valley.” Existing at the intersection of tech, agriculture, and human mediation, Lawrence’s sculptures resist didactic hot-takes on genetic modification or farming industry practice, preferring to engage the viewer with enchanting, formal strangeness instead. This transfigural preoccupation drives at the figural root of late-capitalist material fetish without succumbing to the attendant anxiety such a position entails, lending the work an un-self conscious eeriness. Lawrence, a member of the feminist art collective MATERIAL GIRLS and a former Visiting Artist resident in the Multidisciplinary Department of Art at Chang Mai University, completed her MFA in Sculpture + Extended Media at the University of Texas at Austin in 2016, and has had her work profiled in Hyperallergic, Vice, Artcritical, Maake Magazine, and ArtNews.

 

 

LIZ JOHNSON ARTUR
Brooklyn Museum, New York
May 3 - August 18 

Liz Johnson Artur, Josephine, Peckham, 1995. Chromogenic photograph, 20 x 24 in. Courtesy of the artist. Via the Brooklyn Museum.

Russian Ghanaian photographer Liz Johnson Artur began taking pictures when she visited Brooklyn in 1986, where she stayed with a Russian family in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Using a camera was a way for the artist to connect with other people of African descent, having grown up in Bulgaria, Germany, and Russia. In an interview with The Fader, Johnson Artur says she feels her work “represents a perspective that I believe is missing when it comes to representing and occupying common ground… Normality, everyday life, and moments. Diversity, things that might not make headlines but need to represented.” Pushing against stereotypical or cliche representations of the African diaspora, her images depict leisure, celebration, freedom, dance, pleasure. Often taken with flash and indoors, flat or patterned backgrounds surround subjects in the midst of quotidian daily life. And incidentally, the results feed that millenial yearn for '90s nostalgia that in this case, couldn't get anymore authentic. For Johnson Artur’s first solo museum exhibition, “Dusha” at the Brooklyn Museum presents photographs taken over the past 30 years that illustrate the diversity of culture among Black communities throughout Africa, Europe, North American, and the Caribbean. Alongside the photographic works, the exhibition showcases photo “sketchbooks” and videos that draw from the artist’s vast Black Balloon Archive. The exhibition is on view until August 18th.

 

VIVIEN KOHLER
Gallery MoMo, Johannesburg
June 6 - July 6

Vivien Kohler, Aither, Oil on found metal and board  

South African artist Vivien Kohler makes work that explores the long-rippling ramifications of apartheid legislation on his Johannesburg milieu. Originally hailing from Cape Town, Kohler draws from the dichotomies embedded in the poverty-stricken locale of his youth, deftly balancing tandem optimism and hopelessness, material excess and paucity, throughout his practice. Whether figural or abstract, Kohler’s work avoids the pitfalls of exploitation by centering the human capacity for resilience over circumstance, affording his subjects a solemn, thoughtful dignity in the face of oppression. Using the motif of cardboard rendered hyper-realistically on layered metal, Kohler fuses a found-object patina with fine art, a move that both elevates his choice of subject while interrogating the class and race presumptions central to elevation in the first place. In his forthcoming solo show with Gallery Momo, "r3:FORM4re," Kohler employs the pariedolia phenomenon, the tendency to interpret meaningful images in ambiguous visual patterns, as an apt metaphor both for the experience of art viewership and the kneejerk biases vaulted at members of marginalized or displaced communities. Kohler received his degree in Fine Art from the Ruth Prowse School of Art and Design in Cape Town in 2000, and has exhibited in art fairs and group shows both in his home country and internationally, including two solo exhibitions at Sulger-Buel in London, UK. His work lives in a variety of private and public collections, including the Hollard Collection and Fusion UK.



ANNA BJERGER
Galleri Bo Bjerggaard, Copenhagen, DK
April 26- June 14

 Anna Bjerger, Beachpose, 2015

Swedish painter Anna Bjerger finds her inspiration in outdated, anonymous photographs, often plucked from old tourist or hobbyist magazines, a layer of abstraction that lends her unknown subjects an otherworldly, haunting resonance. Her pieces, rendered almost exclusively on aluminum panel, offer contemplations both on her medium of choice and her source material. The paintings are very much about painting and its relationship to memory, the liquid interpretation and protective obfuscation inherent to the passage of time. There’s a casual sensitivity to her paintings, and while her subjects are often rendered with the same gestural fluidity as their backdrops, this tactile sameness results not in distance, but renewed, collectivized intimacy, the kind of touching recognition of peering into a third-person past. Not quite nostalgic, Bjerger’s paintings grapple with the residue of nostalgia as an emotional tactic, providing viewers a simultaneous salve and severance from contentedness. Bjerger, who lives and works in Almhult, Sweden, received her BA in Fine Art from Central St. Martins School of Art & Design in London in 1997 and an MA in painting from the Royal College of Art, and has shown both in her home country and internationally. Her current solo show at Galleri Bo Bjerggaard in Copenhagen, entitled "Silence," focuses on the material tension central to the act of depiction, liminal, yearning, and dreamy in equal turns.

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