Artist to Watch

6 Artists to Watch This April

6 Artists to Watch This April
The artist Sigmar Polke

MoMA, April 19August 3

Brace yourselves: this month the stately Modern is about to morph into a scandalous hotbed of drugs, sex, crime (mostly theft), altered-consciousnesses, jokes, intergalactic exploration, and crackpot science. The first career-spanning retrospective of the late German artist Sigmar Polke promises all that and more, bringing out the full spectrum of his often psilocybin-enhanced investigations of the nature of art across the mediums of painting, printmaking, film, sculpture, and drawing. One of the largest exhibitions MoMA has ever lavished on an artist, the Polke show—titled "Alibis"—will serve as a vital introduction to his work (which most Americans have only seen in dribs and drabs) and help viewers understand how his early importation of Pop techniques helped shape the work of Kippenberger, Oehlen, and the other standard-bearers of visionary postwar German painting.

303 Gallery, April 17May 31

An artist who combines aspects of film, literature, architecture, and performance in her Relational Aesthetics-inflected environments (she has stated interest in Gesamtkunstwerk), Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster has plunged her audiences into spectacular scenarios, turning Tate Modern's Turbine Hall in 2008 into a sci-fi refugee shelter for people fleeing apocalyptic rainstorms in the year 2058 and transforming the Guggenheim's tiered rotunda into a musical reenactment of the sinking of the Titanic in 2011. This month the artist—who is enviably based between Paris and Rio—will have her gallery debut at 303 with a display of her work in clothing and costumes, on which she has collaborated with Balenciaga in the past (she has designed sets for their boutiques too).

Dallas Contemporary, April 11August 10

The flat, flashbulb-lit paintings of Richard Phillips have always seemed more destined for magazine (or album) covers than for the gallery setting—in fact, they often make their way into glossies like Elle, Visionaire, and Vogue China—but beneath the shallow surfaces of his celebrity portrayals lurk a troubled consciousness musing on ideas of ephemerality, objectification, and the high cost of cheap fame. (One imagines it's similar to what goes on in the mind of Lindsey Lohan, a frequent muse of the artist's.) This month, Phillips—whose googleability went way down after Tom Hanks portrayed a certain real-life hero, Captain Phillips, first name Richard—will have his first solo museum show in the United States, a survey of old and new work at Dallas Contemporary called "Negation of the Universe," which will be joined by his headline-grabbing public sculpture Playboy Marfa, the neon-lit, 40-foot-tall roadside sign commissioned by the magazine and broadcasting the artist's queasy fusion of commercialism and art.

Parrish Art Museum, April 27July 13

One of the most critically acclaimed artists of the 1970s, Jennifer Bartlett developed a signature grid-based approach to creating monumental modular paintings—often built out of graph-paper-gridded steel-and-enamel plates that she would then compose on in enamel—that achieved The Clock-like success in the form of Rhapsody, a nearly 1,000-plate piece that debuted at Paula Cooper in 1976. Recent years have seen a revival of interest in the artist's work, with MoMA displaying Rhapsody in its atrium in 2006 and 2011 (it owns it) and Pace showing another sprawling work in 2011, and this month Bartlett will receive her first career retrospective at the Parrish Museum, an institution that has made previous solo pushes for the artist in 2010 and 2012.

Brooklyn Museum, April 4September 28

Happy birthday, Judy Chicago! This month the legendary feminist artist will turn 75, and the Tri-state area is about to explode into a trio of celebrations of the Los Angeles artist, including a survey called "The Very Best of Judy Chicago" at Jersey City's Mana Contemporary and another one displaying her early paintings, videos, and sculptures from the 1960s and '70s at the Brooklyn Museum. The third event? This month also marks the big 4-0 for Chicago's masterpiece, The Dinner Party, the triangle-shaped banquet installation honoring great women from throughout history that for years has anchored the Brooklyn Museum's Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, and to fête both milestones on April 26 the artist plans to set off a 20-minute, 200-by-180-foot pyrotechnic extravaganza over Prospect Park that will reprise the imagery of her classic installation.

David Zwirner Gallery, April 24June 14

Who is Oscar Murillo? We know a few things: he's 28, he makes graffiti-indebted AbEx-plus-text-ish paintings that sometimes arise from boisterous studio performances, his family moved to London from La Paila (Colombia) when he was 10, he often collaborates with his relatives, and he's the paradigmatic market phenomenon of our time, attracting ravenous financially minded collectors to view his canvases as magical money-expanders. Now he's about to make his New York solo debut at David Zwirner, the blue-chip gallery that made news by snapping him up last fall and which since then has evidently worked wonders in getting his paintings into credentializing museum shows and biennials this year, from the Cartagena Biennial to group shows at LACMA, S.M.A.K. in Ghent, and Antwerp's Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen (the last with the telling title "Don’t You Know Who I Am? Art After Identity Politics"). 

As a suitor to New York's critical community, Murillo smartly arrives in the city bearing chocolate—his inaugural show will be a collaboration with Columbina, a Colombian candy manufacturer that employed four generations of the artists family, importing workers from its La Paila plant to make scrumptious Chocmelos® in the gallery that will then be disseminated to the city's diverse neighborhoods via public transportation. Fun thing to note about Murillo: he's also got a show with Marian Goodman coming up this May in Paris.


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