5 Artists on Our Radar This July
“Artists on Our Radar” is a monthly series produced collaboratively by Artsy’s editorial and curatorial teams. Utilizing our editors’ art expertise and our curatorial team’s 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. 1948, Caetanópolis, Brazil. Lives and works in São Paulo.
In June, the art world signaled its increasing belief in Sonia Gomes as both Blum & Poe and Pace announced their representation of the Brazilian artist in the United States and Asia. They’ll both be working in collaboration with Mendes Wood DM, which has been representing Gomes for over a decade. In late June, Blum & Poe opened an online exhibition of her work, and will give her a solo show in Los Angeles in 2021; meanwhile, Pace will open a solo show of Gomes’s work this September at its temporary space in East Hampton.
Gomes makes tangled, sinewy webs of secondhand fabrics, wire, and driftwood. Recomposed into beguiling wall hangings and sculptures that spurt from the ground or hang from the ceiling, her materials evoke natural destruction and suggest a belief in creative reuse. An exhibition of her work turns a gallery into a strange, bright, highly textured landscape filled with forms that evoke sacred objects, innards, and domestic interiors.
While Gomes’s work may align well with the art world’s renewed appreciation of craft practices and textile-based work, the artist is more interested in her own radical vision than in any limiting categorizations. She once told curator Solange Farkas, “My work is black, it is feminine, and it is marginal. I am a rebel. I never worried about masking or stifling anything that might or might not fit standards of what is called art.”
B. 1972, Osaka. Lives and works in Berlin.
Chiharu Shiota’s latest show, “Inner Universe,” at Galerie Templon, was a highlight of the recent Paris Gallery Weekend. Her signature medium, thread, is on full view, from the dangling red woven textiles of a hanging installation, to the poetic, box-shaped sculptures wrapped with thread and embedded with personal effects like clothing and books. Shiota is inspired by her own experiences and emotions, and seeks to communicate them to her audience. Her yarns seem to tether existential concerns with the physical world.
The artist is best known for her woven installations that envelop and entangle white cube spaces with thread, often entrapping everyday objects in their web. Shiota gained international recognition during the 56th Venice Biennale, where she represented Japan—her work The Key in the Hand (2015), featuring 50,000 keys woven into a sea of red thread above two wooden boats, was one of the most talked-about artworks at the Biennale in 2015.
Through these explosive, effusive installations—made with red, white, or black yarn—she challenges the conventions of artmaking, while prompting the viewer to consider their mortality and consciousness. However, Shiota originally made her name through performance art after moving to Berlin in the late 1990s to study under Marina Abramović.
In 2019, Shiota’s retrospective at the Mori Art Museum became the institution’s second-most visited exhibition to date. In 2020, Shiota has had solo museum exhibitions at the Busan Museum of Art and Osaka’s Madoka Hall.
B. 1988, Maputo, Mozambique. Lives and works in Los Angeles and New York.
In January, Cassi Namoda was named as one of the “The Rising Art Stars of 2020” by Elephant Magazine, ahead of her first European solo show at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery in London. That month, her work was also on the cover of Vogue Italia’s sustainability issue.
The Pippy Houldsworth show brought great acclaim to Namoda’s work, which started gaining collectors’ attention in 2018, when Pérez Art Museum Miami acquired the painting Sasha and Zamani’s Tropical Romance (2018) from François Ghebaly Gallery at NADA Miami. Like much of her work, the piece references the culture of her native Mozambique. The figures of Sasha and Zamani, who are rendered in bold, expressive strokes with deep, vivid tones, each personify an East African concept of time: sequential and eternal, respectively.
More recently, one of Namoda’s paintings was featured as a high-demand work on Artsy in June, following its inclusion in Stockholm gallery CFHILL’s Spring exhibition “Black Voices/Black Microcosm.” The magic of her work comes from the complex characters, who often reappear in different contexts throughout her paintings, and the mood that she captures in the scenes they inhabit, each one crafted through a combination of nostalgia and imagination.
—Gemma Rolls Bentley
B. 1937, Atlanta. D. 2020, New York.
The late Emma Amos is perhaps best known for her tenure in the short-lived but history-shaping Spiral Group (as the only woman). However, she was also a member of the Guerrilla Girls, an editor of the feminist Heresies Collective’s journal, and a powerhouse painter in her own right. Amos, who died this past May at the age of 83, was born in 1937 in Atlanta and began her formal studies at 17. She moved to New York in her early twenties, where she worked for textile artist Dorothy Liebes and pursued graduate studies at NYU.
The 1966 work Baby demonstrates Amos’s focus on color. As she told art historian Lucy Lippard in 1991, “Every time I think about color, it’s a political statement. It would be a luxury to be white and never have to think about it.” In Baby, the blocks of color vibrate against one another, demonstrating the power of contrast. Later works, such as Memory (2012), are more explicit nods to Amos’s interest in textiles, which she gained through Liebes. The work hangs down from a horizontal rod; the domestic scene is framed by a decorative border. Diagonal swaths of pattern create a floor and a rug, and a Black woman stares at the viewer, with smaller figures (perhaps memories of past selves) dotting the canvas.
In 1995, Amos somewhat presciently discussed the trajectory of her career with writer bell hooks. On gaining traditional, blue-chip success, she said, “It’s not going to be me, or, if so, it’s going to be a late splurge on the order of what happened to Alice [Neel], Elizabeth Catlett, or Faith Ringgold.” Amos died as interest in and recognition of her work began to flourish. In 2021, the Georgia Museum of Art is hosting a retrospective of her work, and the show is slated to travel to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Munsons-Williams-Proctor Art Institute in Utica, New York. Although this will be the first major solo museum show of her work, Amos was recently featured in blockbuster exhibitions such as “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” and “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85,” and her work is included in the permanent collections of major institutions.
B. 1974, Silver Spring, Maryland. Lives and works in Los Angeles.
In June, Kadir Nelson’s painting Say Their Names (2020) graced the cover of The New Yorker. The painting centers on a portrait of George Floyd, whose murder by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25th spurred protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement across the world. Nelson transformed Floyd’s body into a memorial that traces the history of violence and discrimination against African Americans. The cover includes portraits of enslaved people, civil rights leaders, and 18 individuals killed by the police in recent years.
That same week, another painting by Nelson was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone. The group portrait American Uprising (2020) showcased a Black Lives Matter protest in a composition inspired by Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People (1830), which is among art history’s most iconic representations of revolution. For its July 6th cover, The New Yorker turned to the celebrated painter yet again. Titled Distant Summer (2020), the cover depicts a young Black boy with a red-white-and-blue popsicle peering into the distance.
While Nelson might be lesser known in the contemporary art world (though surely not for long), he is among the most esteemed illustrators and artists of our time. His paintings have graced countless magazine and album covers, dozens of children’s books, and even U.S. postal stamps. This year, Nelson received the Caldecott Medal, which is considered the Oscar of children’s literature. Prominent collectors of Nelson’s work include Will Smith, Spike Lee, Debbie Allen, and George Lucas.