24 Artists to Watch in 2013: Part 2 of 2

As in past years, Modern Painters presents a list of emerging artists whose work we — and the artist-nominators we’ve collaborated with — find especially promising. Part 1 of our "24 Artists to Watch" appeared yesterday and can be read here. Read Part 2 below. 

Nicolas Party

Born 1980, Lausanne, Switzerland. Lives in Glasgow.

“I’m a painter — a painfully slow painter,” says Party, who admits to finishing only five or six pieces a year. “Such slowness allows time and space to pursue other activities. Thus I’m making sculptures and installations, drawings and prints, performances and curatorial projects. But I’m a painter,” he reiterates. “All other productions are made in the shadow cast by the canvas. I’m not producing generic images; I make specific paintings. This is fundamental to any understanding of my practice.” One of Party’s painting-adjacent activities took place in November at Salon 94, in New York, where he hosted Dinner for 24 Dogs, a “performance dinner” that included hand-painted furniture and plates. He’s also preparing for a solo exhibition in the spring at the Modern Institute, in Glasgow. “It will be a presentation of 15 paintings that I have been working on for the past two years,” he says. “All the walls of the gallery will be painted with different decorative patterns to create a non-neutral environment.”

Cornelia Baltes

Born 1978, Mönchengladbach, Germany. Lives in London and Cologne.

In Baltes’s works, daily life becomes a subject of constant wonder. She has a light touch and a keen eye for everything that is surprising and sometimes ridiculous in our world. Her photographs document mundane things like lit windows at nighttime (Dark Knight, 2012) or a plastic chain hanging from a stack of logs that looks like a smile. Her paintings use the medium in unexpected ways: Some protrude from the frame (Teaparty for Michael, 2011), others use murals as part of a painting installation. In There You Are!, 2010, a large hand painted on a wall points to a painting that hangs there. Simplicity and not overworking—these, she says, are the things “I need to nurture most: keep it light and tight. Also, giving up on a misplaced investment in ‘painting’ has freed me to do as I feel.” Beyond the fact that the works are witty and subtle, they also show a real interest in composition, color, and texture, which makes them quite beautiful.

Toby Christian

Born 1983, Lincolnshire, U.K. Lives in London.

Christian addresses the nature of objects, the burden of art history, and exhibition conventions that have become familiar to the point of invisibility. His early works include empty plinths painted in various shades of white to look dramatically lit, and non-monumental items — like snowballs — carved in marble. In his 2012 “Life Room” series, the artist traces the positions of models posing on a slab of foam as if for a life drawing session. The resulting lines mingle with accidental stains and marks to map an absent body whose memory saturates the support like an afterimage.

Over the last couple of years, Christian has started using words as a medium, “writing from the point of view of making sculpture,” he says. His texts draw on the legacy of semantic poetry and the works of Stefan Themerson, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and Francis Ponge. Although concerned with the world’s physical makeup, the texts flirt with the hermetic, obscuring the objects they supposedly describe. Christian often jots notes on chalkboards as he goes along, later erasing them to create serendipitous abstractions he describes as “post-event images.” Process and product collide.

James Capper

Born 1987, London. Lives in London.

“I build machines that use industrial hydraulics to move,” says Capper of his unique pieces. These machines are part sculptural object, part utilitarian device. “I’m interested in the problem-solving aspect of industrial engineering, which requires a combination of creative and practical thought. There is a strong element of inventing, adapting, and changing existing techniques and processes to resolve a problem — how to make a ship that walks, for instance — and working closely with materials. Ultimately, I hope that this combines to create a distinct new language in the realm of mechanical sculpture.” Capper divides his artistic inventions into categories — ones that are destined for land and those meant for the sea. His newest pieces double as working tools, “hydraulically operated and made to drill, slice, or hew into precast plaster blocks.”

Sarah Dornner

Born 1979, Quartz Hill, California. Lives in New York.

“I like to think about space in relation to the psychological dynamics of domestic spaces, including the embedded power dynamics,” says Dornner of her artistic practice, which includes sculpture, drawing, video, and photography. “The scale and types of objects relate to the body in space and show some possibility of frustrated, impossible, absurd, or magical interaction.” For a solo show that opened at Bureau gallery, in New York, in June, Dornner created a seven-minute video animation, Primavesi House, named for a Josef Hoffmann–designed villa that was destroyed by fire in 1922. In a nod to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s feminist text The Yellow Wallpaper, the video depicts a wallpaper pattern come to life, with chevrons — a common motif in Dornner’s sculptures — rotating and pulsating to dance music. “The video is an exploration of the possibility of psychology affecting a domestic space,” Dornner explains. “Through the works, I try to confound the dominant frameworks of spatial knowledge and suggest alternatives.”

Marine Perault

Born 1985, Paris. Lives in Paris.

Perault’s videos and installations chart what she describes as a “sentimental geography.” In Pond Scum, 2011–present, her latest and most ambitious project to date, the artist focuses on a tiny patch of swamp: her grandfather’s former artificial pond. In 1976 he bought a piece of land 12½ miles from the town of Poitiers and, with the dedica-tion of outsider architect Facteur Cheval, started digging to create a miniature lake. Water never really stayed put, and the pond was more of a slough. It also became a meeting point for Perault’s family reunions, a natural landmark of her childhood.

With this transdisciplinary project, the artist reactivates the now-abandoned locale, ensnaring it in a mesh of references, from 18th-century fêtes galantes to rave culture. Pond Scum’s first act — Perault calls it the “party’s antechamber” — involves a large sculptural model of the pond, complete with lights, sound, and fireworks. It functions as a prelude to the party itself. The second act took place at the pond itself on May 12 and 13, 2012. Perault invited artist friends for a night of performance, improvised along the way, prompted by such elements as dark smoke, a heron costume, and, serendipitously, the unsettling banging of guns shooting clay pigeons in the distance.

The party’s only traces are the works produced by the invited artists in response, pieces that will be shown in an exhibition — the final act, or “post-party” — to be held next spring. The pond of Perault’s grandfather is thus triply mediated, three times reinvented: as a fantasy of itself experienced by the artist’s guests, as a series of fleeting memories transmitted through the resulting pieces, and as the fictional construct the works collectively conjure up in the viewer’s mind.

Sirra Sigrun Sigurdardottir

Born 1977, Reykjavik, Iceland. Lives in Reykjavik.

Sigurdardottir’s large-scale sculptural installations seek to tread the line between art and entertainment while investigating the color spectrum and principles of movement and space. “Certain personal symbols,” she says of her work, “bear reference to art history, the status of the artist, statistical information, scientific theories, and topographical contexts. These evoke a response similar to a child’s sense of captivation by a magician’s illusions — a mixture of wonder, a touch of uncertainty, and a feeling of instability.” Although a founder of the Kling & Bang gallery in Reykjavik and the KlinK and BanK collective, Sigurdardottir has more recently focused on her own work, which involves “research into the forces and powers underlying the current economic situation in the world — my vantage point being Iceland, but in the larger context.” Her pieces, she explains, bring together “perceptions from economics, politics, geology, and environmental issues, looking at patterns and forces under the surface, the undercurrents that shape the flow, shifts, and changes in our society at large, linked to the voice and means of the artist. This would include studying the fabrication of history or falsification of truth and the study of the workings of the systems we are all taking part in. I am especially intrigued by the illusion of the status quo or permanence.”

Ash Ferlito

Born 1979, Monterey, California. Lives in Brooklyn.

As Ferlito says, her canvases “allude to certain painterly traditions” — color field painting comes immediately to mind — “but refuse their pull and recomplicate the territory with interests far beyond painting.” She counts among those interests “physical science and kinetic learning,” as well as anything that might keep her efforts “as fresh as possible.” Ferlito’s most recent pictures — spare, abstract compositions, often with streams or fields of color breaking through monochromatic planes — seem to be mashups of hard-edge abstraction and Expressionist glee. With them, Ferlito says, she is “thinking about light, flash, and reverb.”

“Ferlito is making beautiful paintings that address formal issues from a nicely skeptical position.”  —Dike Blair

John C. Gonzalez

Born 1980, Providence, Rhode Island. Lives in Providence and works in Boston.

Unexpected collaborations are important to Gonzalez, whether they happen to be with scientists or Chinese factory workers. For Small Conversations, which Gonzalez thinks of as an extended performance piece, he establishes one-on-one relationships with Bostonians of different professions. “These strangers are individuals that I seek out, or who seek me out,” he says. “They’ve included a scientist, a politician, a writer, several curators, and artists. What we produce together often has an unpredictable nature, allowing for a mix of personalities and ideologies to develop a finished artwork.” For Self-Portrait Project, 2011, Gonzalez charged 51 professional painters at the Yayuan Art Company in Dafen, China, with contributing images of themselves, which were then exhibited together. “Another project, ‘Installation Box,’ is an ongoing series of sculptures that begin as systematically packaged boxes of material, which are sold and later constructed in a collector’s home, with my input,” Gonzalez says. “And in early 2013 I’ll be exhibiting a new series that will behave as interactive financial instruments, entitling their owners to rights and privileges for future work that I will create.”

Tameka Norris

Born Agana, Guam. Lives in New Orleans.

In the video installation Licker, 2010, Norris, in a bikini and fur coat, raps, “I’m that black Cindy Sherman and that little Kara Walker.” In photographs, videos, and performances, she explores how identity is constructed by media and pop culture, with a particular interest in “the body as a social, physical, and spiritual structure.” While this is usually done through the lens of gender or race, Norris readily deconstructs her identity as an artist as well, specifically in a 2012 video series that tracks her progression through the Yale School of Art. (It’s a savvy update on Alex Bag’s classic Untitled Fall ’95.) Norris was long-listed as a rising talent in our 2011 “Artists to Watch” issue, and her prolific practice has earned her a spot in this year’s edition. Her work can currently be seen in “Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art” at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. She’s also gearing up for inclusion in the Prospect 3 biennial in New Orleans and planning for an upcoming solo exhibition scheduled for 2014 in Biloxi, Mississippi, at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, which Norris will transform into her living, studio, and exhibition space for six months. “My hope,” she explains, “is that this live-in residency will demystify the idea of the artist to an audience that is rarely exposed to art, let alone the maker of the art.”

Ian Tweedy

Born 1982, Hahn, Germany. Lives in Brooklyn.

After beginning his artistic life as a graffiti tagger, Tweedy turned to painting on found canvases, photos, maps, book covers, and other items that can suggest a story. He recently moved to a larger studio and has been taking advantage of its size by experimenting with newer platforms, as well as “amplifying my research a bit, or rather updating it,” he says. “Recently the subject matter is becoming more theatrical, both in light and in concept, probably from painting on the backs of other painters’ forgotten or discarded canvases, exposing the raw canvas and bare wood frame that acts as a shadowy stage of sorts. But I’m still expanding on this concept — for example, with the idea that the background or support I paint on functions as an actual place or a temporary location that can harbor characters and their contexts.” His paintings, he says, will accept no labels, “neither Pop nor ironic nor abstract. But the colors are bold and dry. Utopia and dystopia, immigration, confrontation, and, most of all, adaptation are a few of the threads connecting my work at the moment.” Currently Tweedy is finishing a site-specific video for Museion, in Bolzano, Italy, and working on Crisis, a forthcoming artist’s book produced with Rome’s Cura magazine.

Emre Huner

Born 1977, Istanbul. Lives in Berlin and Istanbul.

The extensive list of subjects that interest Turkish artist Emre Huner includes such ideas as travel in space-time, the rise and fall of civilizations, and the cyclical nature of time. His storytelling installations often bring together original reference material, drawings, sculptures, and found objects. Huner, says his compatriot Ali Kazma, “is doing a very relevant body of work on the aftermath of the modern and what happens when utopias turn sour.” For instance, Fordlândia, 2010, considers the now abandoned eponymous industrial town on the Amazon River in Brazil, founded in the 1920s by Henry Ford, who intended to grow rubber there for the tires on Ford cars. And in the installation A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe, 2012, recently exhibited in Manifesta 9, Huner interposes fossils and rocks with remnants of modernity, alluding to a moment in the future when contemporary society will be a distant history too. Huner will have a solo show at Rodeo Gallery, in Istanbul, in March, 2013. 

This article was published in the December 2012 issue of Modern Painters and appears on ARTINFO in two parts.