One essential component to artmaking is the most overlooked: hanging out. We're not referring to incestuous social hierarchies, but rather to the collaborations that are often passed over by the culturati because they conflict with romantic ideas of solitary genius. So to create a framework for picking our third annual short list of the future's best and brightest, we simply dropped the first e from "emerging," and looked for "merging artists" — artists who collaborate. An illustrious group of critics and curators gave recommendations: Cecilia Alemani, Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy, Martin Herbert, Matthew Higgs, Anthony Huberman, Massimiliano Gioni, Yasmil Raymond, Jeremy Sigler, and Joseph Wolin. The catch was that the artists should also have strong solo practices. "Well, you've really stumped me with this one!" one critic replied. But the names kept coming.
Then another quandary arose. How would we illustrate our theme? An unlikely source served as inspiration: Frida Kahlo's Two Fridas (1939), the famous self-portrait in which Kahlo depicts her twinned selves seated next to each other, their hearts connected by one delicate vein. We asked each artist pair to pose for their portraits at opposite angles to each other so that they would seem to reflect their collaborator on the facing page, and a conversational aspect would emerge. The artists agreed to play along, in each instance adding a twist of their own. The inventive responses to their brief reflect the bold and intriguing qualities that make their work stand out.
Indeed, whether they hail from Bangkok or Brooklyn, live in Paris or Berlin, or somehow manage to be completely itinerant, these 19 artists (one of our groups is a trio) not only figure out ways to work together, they are highly prolific to boot. In teams and as individuals, they create performances, photographs, texts, films, paintings, drawings, sound art, and sculpture, but none considers him or herself to be exclusively any one thing. But in case you were expecting solitary geniuses and still need some convincing that this group of coconspirators is the one to watch, here's a final pitch for your consideration, the oldest in the book: two for the price of one.
Jennie C. Jones and Deborah Grant
Rosa Barba and David Maljkovic
Robin Watkins and Nina Canell
Pratchaya Phinthong + Danh Vo
François Bucher + Ayreen Anastas + Rene Gabri
Benoît Maire + Falke Pisano
Ken Okiishi + Nick Mauss
Oscar Tuazon + Gardar Eide Einarsson
Emily Roysdon + Emma Hedditch
"eMerging Artists" originally appeared in the December 2008 / January 2009 issue of Modern Painters. For a complete list of articles from this issue available on ARTINFO, see Modern Painters' December 2008 / January 2009 Table of Contents.