Flaming Deer, Japanese Businessmen, and the Secret Lives of Objects
Good news, everyone! Art’s not dead! As fascinating as it is to learn everything that’s already happened in the history of art, it’s more fun to see what’s going on right now and how it links to and/or diverges from the past. The contemporary art world is thriving, and the stuff that goes up in private galleries today is the stuff future generations will be gawking at when they go to the Met (“Dude, this stuff is in great shape for being from 2006″). That being said, here are a few of my current favorite artists to watch:
1) Josh Keyes
I don’t try to hide my love for Josh Keyes at all: his works currently serve as my Facebook cover photo and my phone background, I’m even considering getting one of his pieces as a tattoo. His artist’s statement explains that his art is a commentary on urban expansion and environmental decay, which is all well and good, but that’s not why I love his stuff so much. My appreciation for Josh Keyes’ art is actually a really good metaphor for why you don’t need to have a PhD in art history to like art: good art inspires a visceral reaction in you, regardless of whether you know why it’s good. Keyes’ stuff grabs me because it just feels right, emotionally, aesthetically, whatever. Check out a selection of Keyes’ paintings on his website.
2) Sarah Muirhead
I’ve learned that I have a special place in my heart for artists who aim to reflect the gritty side of reality in their work. When Hi-Fructose magazine, my personal favorite source for contemporary art news, recently threw a spotlight on Sarah Muirhead, she immediately nestled right into that part of me. Muirhead creates gripping and contemplative portraits of people she sees on the street–mostly people on the margins of society–putting their societal status on the back burner to instead focus on their inherent beauty and personal idiosyncrasies. The Realists of the 19th century would have totally loved what Muirhead is doing, and so do I. See more of her work here.
When I first came to Artsnapper, I mentioned that Kozyndan is a great husband-and-wife artist team making really approachable, aesthetically-pleasing art. Their subjects range from rabbits to orgies to Japanese culture, all done in their signature graphic style. When you think Kozyndan, think playful, pastel, and humor. I want to buy everything they create, but since I don’t have thousands of dollars, I might just have to settle for pillows and dinnerware printed with their designs (conveniently available for purchase on their site).
4) Lee Yoon-Jean
When I interned as an indexer for the Artist Pension Trust’s Beijing collection, the work was tedious and often monotonous, to say the least. However, I can say that–aside from the money–there was one great plus-side: I was introduced to the work of hundreds of artists working outside of my hemisphere. I’ve already introduced you to Lee Lee-Nam, and Lee Yoon-Jean is another name I think is worth knowing. Yoon-Jean’s still-life photographs are of ordinary domestic spaces, but with emphasis on the smaller details of the everyday. The result is that you are made to see the mundane in a new light and appreciate the interplay of objects. Now repeat that to your friends and trick them into thinking you’re smarter than you are. See more here.
5) Xing Danwen
Another name pulled from my time at APT Beijing, Xing Danwen’s work stood out from thousands of other pieces for its remarkable subtlety. In her series titled “Urban Fiction,” Danwen adds life to the otherwise sterile models of homes created by architects. At first glance, Danwen’s photographs look like nothing special, but closer inspection reveals tiny scenes staged by the artist. The scenes have overtones of urbanization and isolation, but each one invariably will make you stop and construct your own personal narrative. See more of Danwen’s work here.
So maybe gritty street portraits aren’t plastered all over the Met right now, but that doesn’t mean they never will be; nobody in the 18th century thought folksy portraits of country people were museum-worthy, not even the artists themselves, but now they’re worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and can be found in the Met, the MFA, and tons of other museums small and large. What’s happening in the art world now will eventually become the past, and there’s nothing future museum exhibitions will probably like more than what happened in the early 2000s. Who are your favorite contemporary artists? Come on, introduce me to some new artists to watch!
PS, I’ll totally keep you updated on the flaming deer tattoo.