Khan, Suhair et al. “The New Art Stars.” In Borderline Style Blog, Vogue India, February 21, 2012. http://www.vogue.in/content/newart-stars#
The New Art Stars by Suhair Khan 21 Feb 2012 Inspired by India Art Fair, I have conducted a global art tour of my own. I got a group of incredibly plugged in New York Art world girls to share with me the international emerging artists that have most caught their imaginations. Louise Hohorst (BobbyRedd and Art.sy), Jessica Johnson and Zahra Khan (Ronald Feldman Fine Arts), and Jessica Shaefer (Creative Time) – a veritable panel of experts on the younger Art scene – shared with me a diverse range of work and artists. Getting their thoughts and perspectives on the work and where it all sits in the contemporary art sphere has been illuminating, not to mention an absolute visual spectacle.
I have a real soft spot for artists Adam Parker Smith and Maya Bloch, two emerging artists currently getting some well deserved attention. The artists address the notion of the artwork as an object of visual desire with comically discomforting humor and pulsing sensations of disquieting nostalgia. These two artworks for example, each establish an immediate and intimate relationship to the viewer, either physically or emotionally. Maya Bloch's painting, "Hello Stranger" is the estranged memory of photographs taken at a nightmare family reunion, the subjects eyes expectantly returning our gaze. Adam Parker Smith's "Rock Hard in a Funky Place" 2010 returns the attention we give it quite a bit more directly with its own illicit attention. The cartoonish silhouette of a ghost whose desires are betrayed by a disquieting sheet bulge.
Adam Parker Smith "Rock Hard in a Funky Place," 2011 acrylic on canvas, poly femo Image courtesy www.adamparkersmith.com
Maya Bloch "Hello Stranger: Untitled," 2010 oil and acrylic on canvas Image courtesy www.mayabloch.carbonmade.com
Way back in the fall of 2009, I walked into the Doosan Gallery in New York City’s Chelsea Gallery district, and found myself face to face with a taxidermied deer, standing in a pile of dead leaves, whose antlers, made from tree branches, shot up to all corners of the surrounding walls. This was my introduction to the work of Myeongbeom Kim. There is humour and sadness when encountering “Nature” (with a capital N) within the confines of the white cube, especially when that white cube is itself placed in the middle of a concrete jungle. What I love about the deer piece, is that it feels natural, it echoes of something that was alive, but is constructed in a way that evokes both its natural and artificial qualities, creating a harmony of both the Natural and Artificial that is incredibly surreal. Much of Kim’s work suggests that delicacy of that balance we have struck between Nature and our artificially created environment, as well as the futility of all of our human experiments in re-creating Nature (again, with a capital N). One of my favourite pieces is a selection of video stills depicting a three-legged chair, whose missing limb has been replaced by a flock of colourful balloons. As one looks through the images, the chair starts to tilt, dragging the balloon cluster down with it. The action is humourous, sentimental, futile, and, to me, characteristically human.
All images courtesy www.myeongbeomkim.com
As both a scientist and an artist, I came across British artist Luke Jerram’s work when I was doing research for some of my own projects on viruses and bacteria. I can’t say that I wasn’t completely jealous, and perhaps a wee disheartened, when I discovered his “Glass Microbiology” series, a series of painstakingly detailed glass microorganisms sculpted with incredibly scientific accuracy. Overcoming my artistic insecurities, however, I appreciate fully the attention to detail in creating HIV, SARS, H1N1 and a host of other microorganisms. Their forms are lit up and glow like alien crystals, bringing three-dimensional form to many organisms whose shape lies flat beneath the microscope. This is the aspect I love most about Jerram’s work: the visualization and materialization of things that most people, I believe, hold as abstract or “in-visible”: a changing of perception! Take, for example, “Tohoku Japanese Earthquake Sculpture”, a three-dimensional visualization of the massive 9.0 earthquake that devastated Japan in March of 2011. This piece has an ephemeral quality that is quietly powerful. An earthquake is such an abstract force of nature, recorded by a seismograph in two-dimensional scribbling. This sculpture grasps at the physicality of that force. Ideas of perception and its space are found throughout Jerram’s work. One piece that I would love to experience is “Sky Orchestra”. Here, the artist has created a flotilla (a flotilla!) of hot air balloons, with speakers attached to them, to fly over cities and create aural landscapes for those below [On the project’s website, www.skyorchestra.co.uk, it notes that the compositions performed by the balloons were created specifically for sleeping people]. Obviously, your aural perception of the composition will vary based on your location or state of consciousness! “Play Me, I’m Yours”, is a project by Jerram that encourages the community to engage with their surrounding environment. Pianos are installed in public spaces with the instructions, “Play Me, I’m Yours”, and the result is an evolving installation of music and performance that actively demands involvement from the community. In the last four years, pianos for this project have been installed in 28 cities around the world, and the number is increasing! The project’s website, www.streetpianos.com, lists all of the cities where the pianos have been installed, as well as upcoming locations for new installations.
All images courtesy www.lukejerram.com
It is so easy to get wrapped in the visual power of Korean artist Do Ho Suh’s work: its materiality and fragility, and, not to mention, its resonating presence in the gallery. His pieces are architectural ghosts, playing with scale and material and creating illusions that challenge the perception of the physicality of space. One of the first pieces I saw of his was “348 West 22nd St., Apt. A. New York, NY. 10011”. Using fabric and thread, he re-created his entire NYC apartment (without furniture). What’s more, the entire piece can be transported in a single suitcase! As someone relatively new to New York (and relatively new to city living!), I am becoming more and more aware of the transient quality of living in the city. This piece speaks to that quality for me. Not that I’m nomadic, but when you find yourself living in a celebrated closet whose rental price increases every year, it definitely challenges the way you think about space and your material things within that space. Soh’s piece evokes the template living situation (the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom) but as something that is unstable, transitory and ephemeral. When I look at “348 West 22nd St.”, I get the sense that this space is just passing by, a memory, just like the many people passing through the city of New York.
Do Ho Suh, “The Perfect Home II”, 2003, Nylon, silk, stainless steel structure (Installation view at LehmannMaupin Gallery)
Do Ho Suh, “The Perfect Home II” (Detail), 2003, Nylon, silk, stainless steel structure (Installation view at Lehmann-Maupin Gallery)
Do Ho Suh, “Staircase-III”, 2011, Translucent nylon (Installation at Tate Modern)
Do Ho Suh, “Reflection”, 2004, Nylon and stainless steel tube (Installation view at Lehmann-Maupin Gallery)
All images courtesy Lehmann-Maupin Gallery and Doh Ho Suh
Mohsin Shafi’s work is delicately constructed; his powerful imagery and bold motifs convey a strong need for change and progress. Rather than shying away from cultural symbols and traditional motifs, this Pakistani artist embraces them – using their weight and depth to create pieces that are multi-layered in meaning, scope and execution. Many of his pieces revolve around a deliberately genderless, cloaked figure that is shown in various scenarios of subjugation. Shafi has utilized writing and text, both English and Urdu, in many of his pieces. He moves between clouds of calligraphy to the scrawled scribbles of a desperate soul. Words and text are used as a means of highlighting the inability of his subjects to express themselves freely, emphasizing their inability to live their lives without the scrutinizing eyes of society. One of Shafi’s more traditionally crafted prints, Better Late than Never, 2010 depicts a cloaked figure sitting upon an ornate platform, gazing upon an empty wire cage and an escaping butterfly. In Once in a Blue Moon, 2010 a figure is seen crouching in a corner, beneath a gnarled and deformed white moon, with a transparent cityscape in the background. Shafi’s recent work is moving towards collages that use bolder colours, symbols and subjects. Motor Mouth, 2011 shows a young girl with transparent horns growing out of her head, and two fangs growing out of her mouth. A red blindfold covers her eyes and half of her face is marred by scrawled writing. She is framed by symbols of progress like film reels and type-writers. Shafi work does not attempt to provide answers, it simply presents scenarios as he sees them; it is somber and yet a pleasure to look at and analyze.
Mohsin Shafi â€œBetter Late Than Neverâ€?, 2010 line and photo etching on somerset sheet
Mohsin Shafi â€œOnce in a Blue Moonâ€?, 2010 digital print on archival canvas paper
Mohsin Shafi â€œMotor Mouthâ€?, 2011 digital collage printed on archival paper
All images courtesy Mohsin Shafi
Sam Van Aken’s work is constantly evolving and transforming. He has maintained two distinct, often interweaving styles and rhythms, where he creates sculptural pieces from the exploration and manipulation of technological variations - on sound pieces and on organic forms. Much of Van Aken’s pieces explore the overlaps between our various realities; technological, biological, fact, fiction and experimentation. Van Aken’s work reflects this present reality, as it demonstrates an overwhelming curiosity to combine various materials and scenarios in order to exist in the core of these amalgamations. In Hybrids, 2004, Sam Van Aken explored an idea which led to the phenomenal New Edens 2011. As seen in the photograph, Van Aken presents physically altered fruit that he created by welding the fruit together and calls them Hybrids. No two Hybrid sculptures are exactly alike, just as no two regular pieces of fruit are identical. By utilizing various combinations of fruit, Van Aken presents a unique view of genetic modification and presents viewers with distinct fruit sculptures. The artist takes the concept of genetic modification and manipulating natural processes even further in New Edens, where he presents the Trees of 40 Fruits, which are grafted trees. Having grown up on his grandfather’s farm, he is well acquainted with the idea of grafting varieties of fruit trees together. Van Aken is interested in exploring what happens when one tries to modify and affect nature itself. These trees that are live, growing, sculptural pieces are either plum, peach, cherry, apricot and nectarine that have been grafted together. Each tree should bear different combinations of fruit. Forty, here, is a symbolic number representing bounty and abundance. The goal here is the Tree of 100 Fruits.
Sam Van Aken “Hybrids”, 2004 Poplar, acrylic sheet, vinyl, resin, styrene, steel, cyanoacrylate
Sam Van Aken “Tree of 40 Fruits”, 2011 Photo: Bill Orcutt
Sam Van Aken Detail of “Fruit from Hybrids”, 2004 Poplar, acrylic sheet, vinyl, resin, styrene, steel, cyanoacrylate
Sam Van Aken “Tree of 100 Fruits”, 2011 Photo: Eleanore Hopper
All images courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York
Atif Khan is a print maker from Lahore, Pakistan. Khan draws his inspiration from the Eastern tradition of storytelling. His multi-layered work contains stories that are rooted in the South Asian traditions of miniature and narratives. His pieces portray men and women dressed in old-fashioned Mughal costumes, and in situations that appear to be historically appropriate. However, Khan includes humorous, modern motifs, objects and symbols which force the viewer to re-examine the scenarios he presents and appreciate the ironic humor in Khan’s work. His prints highlight the stark differences between present day South Asia and the India subcontinent of the Mughal era. Without criticizing or endorsing either environment or time period, Khan silently allows his viewer to appreciate his pieces and form independent opinions. Khan’s triptych, Showtime, 2007, depicts a stained glass window through which plain white figures can be seen. Although it is impossible to make out the particulars, Khan has modified the clothes and accessories of the figures in each piece of the triptych, greatly transforming the narrative and therefore the meaning of each piece.
In Landscape of the Heart IV 2011, a Mughal king is portrayed crossing a river of blood full of fish. However, the Kingâ€™s vessel is not a boat, it is a beating human heart and the river that he is crossing is made up of the spikes on heart monitors. Khan has portrayed a very serious modern day scenario by presenting it in a different setting and thus somewhat modifying its meaning.
Atif Khan “Showtime”, 2007 Photo Collage Etching on Copper, Triptych
Atif Khan â€œLandscape of the Heart IVâ€?, 2011 digital collage (archival)
All images courtesy Atif Khan
Jess put me in touch with Tom Fruin – who is incredibly charming and infectiously enthusiastic about his work. He uses a range of material – from plexiglass to drug bags to steel. He lives in the Lower East Side of Manhattan but works out of the Brooklyn waterfront neighbourhood of Dumbo. His work is visually stunning, imposing, and incredibly experiential – both for the viewer, and it turns out, the artist himself. When he first moved to New York from California Fruin would see small drug bags all over the sidewalks, which he began collecting and sewing into a full-sized all-American quilt. He realized that each neighborhood had slightly different bags - colors, patterns, sizes; each place had its own identity and personality. The process became his very novel technique for learning his new city.
Fruin defines himself as a visual artist, specifically one who is an object maker. Materiality is important â€“ even the drugbag tapestries are objects: more than just images. He often installs these pieces on rods projecting from the wall to enhance their "objectness"; light passes through and creates a projection on the wall.
His work went through a major evolution when he was invited to make large format work with discarded Plexiglas from a defunct factory in Copenhagen. The work is titled Kolonihavehus (translates roughly as: community garden shed). He wanted to convey something of his experience of the place, so he exaggerated the angle of the roofline and exposed the steel "beams" to reference the vernacular architecture of Copenhagen where the piece was produced and installed. The artist extended his work in Denmark to create a series of Icons for various cities. He has constructed an Obelisco for Buenos Aires, Argentina; and is currently creating something for his home base of Brooklyn (he wouldnâ€™t reveal details, beyond that it should be unveiled in May). Stay tuned.
All images courtesy Tom Fruin, www.creativetime.org