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Artist to Watch

10 Artists to Watch This December


10 Artists to Watch This December
The artist Mai-Thu Perret

With the Miami art fairs beckoning the art world to warmer climes, and with galleries and museums rounding out this insane year with a last salvo of art before trundling into the uncertainty of 2017, here are the artists to keep an eye out for this month.


Nina Johnson, November 28 - January 14


An indisputable up-and-comer, the 28-year-old Yale MFA grad Awol Erizku broke out as an artist capable of wearing many hats, from photographing Ethiopian sex workers in poses that update classic paintings of the Western canon to his film Serendipity that screened at MoMA PopRally to his editorial work for the New York Times Magazine,, and Vice. Now, for his first solo show at Miami’s Nina Johnson gallery (formerly Gallery Diet), the Ethiopian-born artist will show another side of his talent by rolling out 20 new paintings derived from nail salon signs he spotted around Los Angeles. 


“New Shamans/Novos Xamãs,” the Rubell Family Collection, November 30 - August 25


Miami has a special significance for the Brazilian artist Paulo Nazareth—after all, for the 2011 edition of Art Basel Miami Beach, he trekked several thousand miles by foot from his native country to arrive in time for the fair, taking photographs and making art from the experiences he encountered along his nine-month journey. A visual poet of the migrant experience, Nazareth has been gaining greater and greater attention ever since, traveling this summer (by plane) to participate in Art Basel’s Art Unlimited show in Switzerland. This month, however, he’s coming back to Miami—this time as much-touted cover star of Don and Mera Rubell’s survey of Brazilian artists in their famous collection.


Tate Modern, December 1 - April 2


A titan of American art whose surprise 1964 Grand Prize victory at the Venice Biennale marked the decisive shift of the avant-garde from Europe to the United States for the rest of the century, Robert Rauschenberg led the kind of outsize career that filled copious tomes during his lifetime. But, by the time most of those were published, he wasn’t quite done yet; a workaholic, Rauschenberg continued making art in his later years through a stroke (which incapacitated his right hand, so he switched to his left), filling his studio in Captiva, Florida, with output that often drew on collaborations and new technologies. This month, the first retrospective of the artist’s work since his death will go on view in London—before traveling to MoMA next year—allowing his countless fans to see the sweep of his achievement from start to finish, for the first time.


The Bass Museum, November 30 - ongoing


Looking like Fruity Pebbles painstakingly stacked and then hit with a giganticizing ray, Ugo Rondinone’s “Magic Mountain” series of public artworks are irresistible, feel-good monuments—the kind of confection that gives pleasure without asking much in return. That’s just what Art Basel’s revelers are going to want this week (though perhaps not what they deserve), so they’ll be happy to find that the Bass Museum has acquired one called Miami Mountain to add to its permanent collection. Displayed just off Collins Avenue, outside the museum, the piece will be unveiled during the fair in advance of the museum’s own post-renovation grand opening in the spring.


JTT, November 13 - January 6


Too-long-overlooked Pop-era dynamo Diane Simpson is making a comeback—her landmark Samurai series were first exhibited in 1983 at Phyllis Kind’s Chicago gallery, and have now resurfaced in the inaugural exhibition at JTT Gallery’s new (and much larger) space in the Lower East Side. The eight body-scaled, minimalist sculptures inspired by samurai armor and Japanese fireman capes comprise the artist's first New York solo show in 33 years.


Yautepec Gallery, November 17 - January 6


Rising painter Morgan Mandalay has spent much of his career behind the scenes as an innovative curator. He was director of Sunday Project, a living-room gallery in Chicago, before founding SPF15, a series of open-air exhibitions displayed on the beaches of San Diego. But the artist’s oil-and-spray-enamel paintings are funny, clever, and painterly—and reasons we should all take a closer look at this young artist. The current MFA student (University of California San Diego) is currently in a three-person show at Mexico City’s Yautepec, and will have a solo show at City Limits in Oakland in January.


Simon Lee, November 23 - February 4


Swiss artist Mai-Thu Perret bases much of her work on The Crystal Frontier—a self-authored continuous fictional text revolving around a group of women who build a commune in the desert of New Mexico. This feminist utopian narrative rings throughout the artist's oeuvre, which includes installation, performance, and sculpture, and provides an alternative model to the neoliberal, patriarchal society she finds herself in. Now on view at Simon Lee Gallery in London, her work takes the form of a papier-mâché female figure inspired by the soldiers of a female-only Kurdish militia currently fighting in the Syrian civil war, an abstract wicker sculpture suggesting 3D-rendered design, and hieroglyphic geometric abstractions depicted on ceramic wall reliefs. With the political, speculative, and literary depth of Perret’s work, it’s no wonder she’s exhibited at the 54th Venice Biennale, MAMCO in Geneva, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Kitchen in New York.


Art Basel Miami Beach Film Section, November 30-December 4


For those in the know, the Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta may be one of the most important feminist artists to come out of the ferment of the 1970s—and not just for the sustained activism engendered by her untimely and mysterious (or maybe not-so-mysterious) death following an argument with her then-husband Carl Andre. Drawing from the male-dominated field of Land Art infused with her political sensibility and recurring references to her Latin American heritage, her experiments in film and video are celebrated for their prescient and piecing take on such relevant issues as campus sexual assault, environmentalism, and the challenges of preserving identity in a homogenizing society. Galerie Lelong will feature two of her films—Anima, Silueta de Cohetes (Firework Piece) from 1976 and an untitled 1971 piece—as part of the Art Basel Miami Beach Film Section, a rare opportunity to view the work of this pioneering artist.


Stephen Friedman Gallery, November 21-January 28th


In her second solo show at London’s Stephen Friedman Gallery, the Pakistani-American sculptor Huma Bhabha continues her work peeling back the layers of art history, creating in the process works that are wholly of the 21st century. Featuring a mix of collaged drawings, carved cork sculptures, and mixed-media creations of clay, bones, and wire, the exhibition promises to be an update the much-ballyhooed trend towards atemporality by an artist who has the age (and critical chops) to actually pull it off. Visitors should keep a sharp eye out for references ranging from Jasper Johns and Joseph Beuys to Cheech and Chong, Roman sculpture, and contemporary science-fiction—an appropriately diverse cast befitting our mixed-up times.


ICA Miami, November 29-March 26


The Institute of Contemporary Art Miami is moving to some fancy new digs in the city's design district in 2017, and they’re pulling out all the stops for their final show at their current location in the iconic Moore Building: the first-ever American museum survey of the works of Thomas Bayrle. The 79-year-old Frankfurt-based artist has contributed to movements as diverse as Pop and Conceptual art over the course of his long career, meaning his solo show at the ICA Miami has a lot of ground to cover. Even so, his central interests will make themselves clear; expect intricate urban landscapes, a close attention to repetition and patterning, subtle references to consumer culture, and an abiding interest in controversial figures like the infamous 1970s terrorist Carlos the Jackal. 


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