Artist to Watch

6 Artists to Watch at the Sunday Art Fair 2014

6 Artists to Watch at the Sunday Art Fair 2014
The Sunday Art Fair 2014

If Frieze London is a symphony of contemporary art, the Sunday Art Fair, located incongruously across the street from Madame Toussaud's in a former concrete factory, is the equivalent of a three-chord punk song: fleet, concise, and likely to get stuck in your head. Here are six young artists from the fair you should know.


Born in 1985, the London-based artist Sophie Michael makes 16-millimeter films that bridge formalist concerns—the grain of the projection, the art of editing within the camera, the clackety clack of the whirring projector—with a taste for enveloping beauty and dry wit. At Seventeen Gallery’s stand at the fair, she presented a darkened room containing Daphne (Purple, Red) (2014), a film that accompanies two recurring scenes (a hand flipping through a white screenprint-drying rack and a quivering dried honesty plant) with a recording of Daphne, a lush piece of anonymous, harpschord-driven Baroque chamber music. The title, the music, and the lush coloration of the film—which results from overlaying multiple exposures of film, with one each in blue, yellow, and purple, in reference to the CMYK printmaking process—all refer to a comment her synaesthetic mother said about Daphne being “purple.” The film ($8,000, edition of five) is strikingly assured, and Michael will be featured in an upcoming group show at the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden.


After attending art school in Malmö alongside a crop of young Post-Internet artists, Ditte Ejlerskov, a painter, struggled with how to make her work in that traditional medium tackle the concerns of the digital age. What the 32-year-old Danish painter came up with is complex and highly entertaining: she makes paintings in homage to Rhianna, Beyonce, and Nicky Minaj—strong, business-savvy, but sexily feminine women she sees as icons of third-wave feminism—that she then slices up and weaves into triptychs ($23,600), with the interplay of the loose warps and woofs giving the surface a pixillated appearance, and the extra canvas dripping down in a way allusive of fetish garb. Her obsession with Rhianna in particular also led to a previous project, in which she struck up a conversation with someone who sent her spam emails, found out he lived in the Barbados, and convinced him to (rather unwillingly) take a photograph of Rianna’s parents’ house on the island and send it to her. As a result of the ensuing body of work—a book of the correspondence—Denmark awarded her a grant to do a residency in the Barbados.  


The artist Christopher Chiappa has always loved Swiss cheese, so when he was recently in a bout of traveling he would stop in delis wherever he was and order slices of it, place them down on pieces of paper, spray paint them black, scan the results, and then use a waterjet cutter to recreate the flat shapes, holes and all, in powdery yellow aluminum. These sculptures, which Chiappa said were partly inspired by Jean Arp’s aleatory “dropped paintings” (the holes in the cheese, for instance, were created by unpredictable chemical reactions), lined the walls at Kate Werble’s booth, while another metal sculpture by the artist suggesting a basketball without the orange parts sat on the floor. Playful yet very much attuned to a notion of found beauty, these sculptures ($5,500 for the cheese ones, $6,000 for the basketball) were the most recent efforts by Chiappa, who on the side does high-profile design work—his company built the store Moss in New York—and who currently has a solo show at MASS MoCA running through next spring.


“Displaced tragedies and advertisement strategies” are the subjects of the Berlin artist Florian Auer’s work, according to his dealer, Nadine Zeidler. At Sunday, these themes were expressed through a trio of muscular male torsos in electrical colors that were hung on the wall, made from fabric that the artist digitally printed with athletic t-shirt designs and then covered in fiberglass, with the colors referencing the Sky TV logo, which on the television screen continually adapts to match the color of whatever is behind it. Beneath these quasi-archaic objects were vinyl stickers in a similarly contrapposto Z-shape that stemmed from a recent show the artist held, where he painted the floors and walls of the gallery to create a trompe l’oeil environment where everything seemed to be flattened into an immersive digital environment, with the sticker appearing as pop-up screens. Both works were $4,850, and Auer, a graduate of Frankfurt’s Städelschule, has a show coming up at the Kunstverein Braunschweig.


An artist who for the past several years has worked in a succession of famous male artists’ studios (she currently works with Sean Landers), Emily Mae Smith makes paintings that seize upon the studio idiom and allow her to simultaneous spoof and feminize it. The art nouveau touches, for instance, are a riff on the period’s habit of depicting artists’ studios as sites of male creativity, with women as decorative marginalia; the characters from Fantasia, self-portraits of a kind, denote the menial work that gets (not so) magically done. Hung at Laurel Gitlen’s Sunday booth, the display amounted to Smith’s most public showing to date, and also included smaller canvases that use a vaudevillian’s mustachioed, gaping mouth as the site for painterly play. Both series are beautifully executed, and these fine objects ranged from $2,000 to $5,000 in price.


When the twentysomething Cooper Union graduates Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff moved to Berlin a few years ago, they opened a watering hole called Times Bar as both a way to make money and a place for their friends to hang out. They soon became more interested in the way the bar became a nexus for creative discourse—but they felt it was too simple a format, so they closed the bar and instead opened a theater, recruiting their untrained fellow artists to do everything from writing the plays, making the costumes, enacting the parts, and doing the lighting. Since then, the two artists have also begun creating a concomitant series of photographs that chronicle the haunts of their social circle and present all of Berlin as a giant stage set for their dramatic exploits. These pictures, $2,700 apiece, were brought to Sunday by Off Vendome, and carried a refreshing scent of artistic freedom.


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