5 Artists on Our Radar in May 2022
“Artists on Our Radar” is a monthly series produced by the Artsy team. Utilizing our art expertise and access to Artsy data, we highlight five artists who have our attention. To make our selections, we’ve determined which artists made an impact this past month through new gallery representation, exhibitions, auctions, art fairs, or fresh works on Artsy.
B. 1988, Philadelphia. Lives and works in Richmond, California.
Em Kettner explores the expansiveness of disability and community through works in miniature. For “The Understudies,” her recent exhibition at François Ghebaly in Los Angeles, Kettner created a series of drawings on porcelain tiles set in wood frames, each around half a foot in size.
In Balancing Act (Backlit Duo), a woman rests on the back of a crawling figure. Above them, shining stage lights underscore the vulnerability of the moment, highlighting the woman’s complete trust in the figure physically supporting her.
For Kettner’s 2020 solo show at Goldfinch in Chicago, the artist spoke with the gallery’s curatorial director, Elizabeth Lalley, about this feeling of intimacy. “If I rely on another person to help me stand up, then in that instance I have four extra limbs working in tandem with mine,” Kettner said. “The characters I create exist within these moments of expansion, mutualism, and dependence. And certainly these sensations also describe erotic interactions and attempts to commune with something holy.”
These qualities of trust and support also allow the figures in Balancing Act (Backlit Duo) to move through the picture plane together. The work is a celebration of togetherness and mutual regard, rather than a lamentation of hardship or difficulty.
Kettner received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is represented by Goldfinch in Chicago and François Ghebaly in Los Angeles and New York. Her work has been exhibited at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, California; NIAD Art Center in Richmond, California; Field Projects Gallery in New York; and more.
B. 1985, Spain. Lives and works in Madrid.
Teresa Solar invokes liquidity through monumental ceramics, drawings, and film. Her use of color attracts the audience’s eye, allowing us to embrace the impressive shapes of her abstract structures.
Solar is one of 213 artists included in “The Milk of Dreams,” the main exhibition of the 59th Venice Biennale. Her exhibited sculptures feature claw-like shapes, while their color palette evoke water. The works embrace the sensorial feeling of transformation, moving through form, material, and color.
The artist has described her approach to artmaking as influenced by the gaps in language and culture. Solar, who is of Spanish and Egyptian descent, grew up speaking Arabic but never learned to read or write the language. This fragmented link undergirds her practice and informs her use of abstraction. Her large-scale sculptures empower viewers to read culture in a universal language.
B. 1968, Cap-Haïtien, Haiti. Lives and works in Port-au-Prince.
Frantz Zéphirin’s mosaic-like paintings draw inspiration from the afterlife of colonization in Haiti. This legacy involves Voodoo, Christianity, agriculture, and oceanic environments. He uses both abstraction and figuration to evoke life in Haiti across time, and frequently titles his work after mythologies associated with Voodoo.
In Zéphirin’s depictions of community gatherings, figures, and landscapes, fragmented creatures lurk in the background. In Pantheon Voudou (2005), for example, people, spirits, and creatures gather in a rippling tear in reality. Outside of that tear, three larger deities look on in a tightly arranged composition that purposefully bleeds out onto the frame. This practice of extending scenes outward is a distinct feature of Zéphirin’s work. For the artist, mythology beautifully collides with daily Haitian life.
Zéphirin is entirely self-taught and was inspired to become an artist after watching his uncle paint in the studio as a child. His work received mainstream recognition when it was featured on the cover of The New Yorker following the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Zéphirin, who is represented by Galerie Monnin, recently received another watershed breakthrough as one of the artists included in the main exhibition of the 59th Venice Biennale, “The Milk of Dreams.” His mythological paintings pair nicely with the exhibition’s overall theme of metamorphosis through fantasy.
B. 1952, Chicago. Lives and works in New York.
A painter with decades of experience and a practice deeply rooted in New York, Jane Dickson mines quintessential American scenes for inspiration, uncovering the seedy, almost threatening nature of subjects ranging from peep shows and casinos to suburban homes and grocery stores. Dickson is featured in this year’s Whitney Biennial, on view through September 5th, and was the subject of a recent solo show, “99¢ Dreams,” at James Fuentes in New York.
Though tending to favor simple subjects and scenes, Dickson’s work contains a grand sense of narrative—of tumult, anguish, or isolation experienced just out of frame or behind a closed door. Her color palette ratchets up the tension by balancing moody blue and funereal black hues with shades of electric orange and lusty red. Adding a further layer of interest to these pieces is her use of nontraditional surfaces such as AstroTurf, felt, sandpaper, and carpet.
Dickson received a BA from Harvard University and a studio diploma from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Her work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions at Creative Time, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Marlborough Gallery, and Brooke Alexander Gallery, among others. Her paintings are held in both museum and corporate collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Forbes, and J.P. Morgan Chase.
—Brian P. Kelly
B. 1980, Masaka, Uganda. Lives and works between Rwanda and Uganda.
Collin Sekajugo’s powerful mixed-media portraits are tools for social change. Inspired by his travels across eastern and southern Africa, Sekajugo explores the connection between art and community, examining new methods of artmaking from across the continent.
Informed by Uganda’s social fabric, Sekajugo’s practice calls attention to common experiences of prejudice. These themes can be found in Sekajugo’s recent work, in which the artist manipulates everyday stock images, challenging representations of non-Western societies.
Working with recycled materials such as polypropylene bags, the self-taught artist addresses issues surrounding sustainability through large-scale collage paintings. Applying layers of barkcloth, wax cloth, and acrylic paint, Sekajugo combines found materials collected from marketplaces with traditional painterly elements, resulting in detailed collages that reject the popular imagery found in mainstream culture.
Alongside Acaye Kerunen, Sekajugo is currently representing Uganda in the country’s inaugural pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale. Additionally, Sekajugo’s work is held in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C.