5 Artists on Our Radar in January 2021
“Artists on Our Radar” is a monthly series produced collaboratively by Artsy’s Editorial and Curatorial teams. Utilizing our editors’ art expertise and our curators’ unique insights and access to Artsy data, each month, 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, viewing rooms, or sale inquiries on Artsy.
B. 1976, Columbus, Ohio. Lives and works in San Francisco.
The esteemed Bay Area–based artist and musician Clare E. Rojas joined the roster of tastemaking San Francisco gallery Jessica Silverman in September 2020 and will open her first solo show at the gallery this year. Rojas, who featured in Jessica Silverman’s recent online viewing room for Art Basel in Miami Beach, approaches artmaking as a means of storytelling. In art and music—her musical lyrics often inform her artworks and vice versa—she distills narratives down to their most crucial elements.
With her art practice, spanning painting, drawing, printmaking, and murals, Rojas dips in and out of figuration. Her recent work has involved a focus on singular forms, which she creates instinctively or lifts from her natural surroundings. Those forms sit at the core of her works, which range from hard-edged abstract blocks of color to flatly rendered birds and floral motifs to figurative paintings featuring humans or animals navigating enigmatic landscapes. She’s often portrayed female protagonists, exploring notions of “women’s work” and gender issues. “I like to represent women in their times of strength, with grace and vulnerability that I believe is courageous,” Rojas said in a 2019 interview.
B. 1994, London. Lives and works in London.
British-Chinese artist Faye Wei Wei has garnered widespread attention through her ethereal figurative works. Featured in publications from British Vogue to Dazed, the Slade School of Fine Art alumna is truly making a splash. After a succession of recent solo shows, most notably at Cob Gallery and Galerie Kandlhofer, the young artist continues to expand her practice, incorporating deeper hues and fresh narratives into her paintings.
Though her inspirations include Fra Angelico, poetry, and folklore, Wei Wei roots her works in classical mythology. The artist embraces nonlinear narratives to explore themes of love and the performance of gender. Her works are somewhat enigmatic, often making use of symbolism.
Her large-scale paintings are intimate, composed of gestural brushstrokes and pastel tones. She applies thin, expressive layers of paint to create dreamlike figures among a sea of suns, moons, and flowers. Stylistically, there are elements of Romanticism within her practice, yet her line work and mark-making are undeniably contemporary. “Working with large canvases means painting feels like a performance, the movement of painting is like a dance, so much is intuitive,” Wei Wei said in an interview with AnOther Magazine.
B. 1994, Seoul. Lives and works in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Recent Columbia MFA grad Mark Yang’s career might just be beginning, but his colorful, swirling canvases of wrestlers have already been exhibited at galleries in New York and Los Angeles. In his work, Yang reimagines and reconsiders two art historical tropes: the idealized nude and depictions of great strength. Much like the grand marble wrestlers sculpted in Hellenistic Greece or George Bellows’s frenetic paintings of New York’s underground boxing scene, Yang’s work contemplates masculinity and explores the act of imbuing movement in a static image. His wrestlers show softness and strength, tangled in front of dazzling planes of color and dreamlike landscapes.
Yang’s grad school experience, like many others, took an unexpected turn with the onset of COVID-19. While many 2020 graduates worried about the fate of their thesis exhibitions, Yang and his classmates at Columbia had the chance to mount an online show, “Alone Together,” with Steve Turner after Turner connected with Yang’s fellow classmate Susan M B Chen. In 2021, Yang’s postponed thesis exhibition will go up at Columbia’s Wallach Art Gallery.
B. 1982, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Lives and works in Philadelphia.
Jesse Krimes’s most recent exhibition, “American Rendition,” at Malin Gallery, has been reviewed by nearly every major art publication, from Art in America to Hyperallergic. The show features a series of quilts portraying domestic scenes, in which every artistic choice is embedded with stories and symbols of mass incarceration in America at both the national and individual scale.
The Philadelphia-based artist and activist collected some of the quilts’ materials and subject matter through a series of workshops with men incarcerated in Pennsylvania’s Graterford Prison, and co-created them alongside those employed in the local criminal justice system, such as police, judges, and parole officers. The empty chairs featured in many of the quilts symbolize their memories of home and the disappearance of family members into the penal system, and serve as memorials for those lost in jails and prisons from COVID-19. “The furniture and interiors are made mostly of old clothing and serve as symbolic stand-ins for the body that yearns to return,” Krimes has explained.
After serving a six-year prison sentence, Krimes co-founded Right of Return USA, a fellowship program to support previously incarcerated artists. Krimes’s works can also be seen in the current must-see show “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration” at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City (on view through April 4, 2021), alongside fellow Right of Return artists Daniel McCarthy Clifford, James “Yaya” Hough, and Russell Craig. These artists, who bring visibility and humanization to those hidden and abused by the prison industrial complex, are vital towards reimagining what a justice system should look like in America.
B. 1992, Los Angeles. Lives and works in Los Angeles.
During Altman Seigel’s online viewing room presentation for Art Basel in Miami Beach this past December, a work by the young Los Angeles–based artist Troy Chew was listed as sold shortly after the VIP preview went live. A 2018 MFA grad from California College of the Arts (CCA), Chew creates work that highlights the contributions of Black artists within popular culture, with a particular focus on hip-hop culture. For instance, his early series “Out the Mud” refers to the common trope used in rap and hip-hop circles to refer to those rising talents who find success despite humble beginnings. Chew visualized this idea literally and figuratively in the series by overlaying mud cloth—a traditional textile of Mali in West Africa—atop canvases showing scenes of wealthy and accomplished Black subjects.
Chew built upon his “Slanguage”series this past fall in the exhibition “Yadadamean” at CULT Aimee Friberg Exhibitions in San Francisco. The “Slanguage” series of still-life paintings reference slang terms for themes that are popular in rap music and culture—such as bread, cheese, and bacon to signify money. Painted in the style of 16th- and 17th-century Flemish vanitas still lifes, the works imagine a history in which Black culture was recognized within fine art, especially during a period in which it was excluded and unrepresented.
In fall 2020, Chew’s new series “Three Crowns,” made up of three tooth-shaped paintings—representative of the number of teeth Chew lost when attacked by police—was exhibited in “Fuck the King’s Horses and All the King’s Men” at Parker Gallery in Los Angeles. The series explores the evolution of cosmetic dentistry and use of grills in hip-hop and mainstream culture.
Since graduating from CCA, Chew has exhibited widely with galleries throughout California. He was named the 2019 Facebook artist in residence and awarded the 2019–2020 Tournesol Award and artist residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts in 2018.