5 Artists on Our Radar This March

Artsy Curatorial and Artsy Editorial
Mar 25, 2020 6:47PM
Tauba Auerbach
Mesh/Moire II, 2012
Malin Gallery

“Artists on Our Radar” is a new 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 will highlight five artists who have our attention. To make our selections, we’ve determined which artists made an impact this past month, whether through exhibitions at galleries or institutions, sales at art fairs, major auction results, or online sale inquiries through Artsy.

The selections on this list primarily take into account signals that occurred prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent postponement of the vast majority of art industry events. For future installments, we will be monitoring online projects, viewing rooms, and sales, as well as Artsy data, to determine the artists we feature.

Sarah Slappey

B. 1984, Columbia, South Carolina. Lives and works in New York City.


Sarah Slappey’s paintings ooze with discomfiting carnality. Her canvases feature long-fingered hands; breasts with nipples shaped like the tops of condiment squeeze bottles; strings of pearls; droplets of water and breast milk; and abstract, ballooning shapes—all jumbled together in dynamic, witchy compositions. Slappey’s flattened style gives her work the aura of a dark adult cartoon. Collectors thrilled at the artist’s recent show “Power Play” at Sargent’s Daughters. The show sold out, with the gallery making sales beyond what it had mounted on the walls.

Last year, Slappey told Maake Magazine about her interest in what she calls “hyper-femininity”: She said she imagines “bodies as so overtly female/gendered that they become aggressive and threatening.” Slappey’s work sits at the nexus of two of the contemporary art world’s favorite aesthetics: updated surrealism and the female grotesque.

Since she graduated from Hunter’s MFA program in 2016, Slappey has enjoyed a quick rise. She’s exhibited at galleries across New York and Europe, including Saatchi Gallery in London, Maria Bernheim Gallery in Zurich, and Andrew Edlin and Crush Curatorial in New York.

—Alina Cohen

Landon Metz

B. 1985, Phoenix, Arizona. Lives and works in New York City.

Landon Metz’s soothing, hand-stretched canvases have been a staple of contemporary art fairs for the better part of the decade. However, he’s recently taken his practice to a new level through sculptural and installation work that translates his trademark visual language into encompassing experiences. Collectors are taking note—inquiries on his work on Artsy have more than doubled in the last three months.

The self-taught artist was born in Arizona amidst the red-rock expanses of the American Southwest—places like Antelope Canyon, Coyote Buttes, and Cathedral Rock, where water and wind eroded the Earth into sublime natural phenomenons over the course of millennia. This landscape and its organic shapes are an ongoing source of inspiration for Metz.

The subtle compositions that sweep across Metz’s work are the result of his intensely processed-focused practice. After cutting and stretching his canvas, Metz works in total silence while meticulously applying dye with a foam brush to create biomorphic contours, at times repeated across several canvases made to stretch the length of a room. The repetitive nature of the work and its focus on negative space situates Metz as a descendant of Color Field Painting and Minimalism, drawing comparisons to the abstract masters Morris Louis and Helen Frankenthaler.

—Jordan Huelskamp

Tauba Auerbach

B. 1981, San Francisco, California. Lives and works in New York City.

New Yorkers may remember Tauba Auerbach as the artist who transformed the city’s historic John J. Harvey fireboat with a contemporary take on World War II–era dazzle ships—military vessels painted in optical patterns to avoid detection by enemy submarines. The marbled red-and-white boat traveled along the Hudson River in 2018 and 2019, captivating viewers with its history as well as its trompe l’oeil paint job inspired by fluid mechanics—a branch of physics concerned with the movement of liquids, gasses, and plasma.

This nod to math and science is emblematic of Auerbach’s wide-ranging practice. In various mediums, she explores logic, perception, order, and language in relation to issues of interconnectivity, philosophy, and the structure of the universe. Auerbach’s work is loaded with an almost spiritual application of scientific theory, investigating the points at which the laws of nature erode and transform into something else entirely. For example, in her acclaimed “Fold” series, Auerbach spray-painted swaths of color over creased and crumpled canvas before stretching it to completion, creating a two-dimensional image while pushing painting into fresh domain.

Over the past decade, Auerbach has been featured in solo exhibitions at top galleries and institutions including Paula Cooper Gallery and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; her market at auction has grown steadily; and her works have been placed in esteemed museum collections including The Broad, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Guggenheim. Her first major solo museum exhibition, “S v Z”—slated to open at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art later this year—promises to cement her place as a leading contemporary artist.

—Jordan Huelskamp


B. 1947, Leonforte, Italy. D. 2015, Turin, Italy.

Until this year, Salvo, the late Conceptual art pioneer and painter of fantastical landscapes, was largely unknown outside of his home country of Italy. With a recent solo exhibition at Gladstone Gallery, a work presented at The Armory Show, and press in the New York Times, the artist has quickly gained international exposure. On Artsy, inquiries on Salvo’s works have already grown by more than 700 percent since January, compared to the previous quarter.

Born Salvatore Mangione, the artist began his artistic career in the 1960s, eager to learn from the most esteemed painters of art history. To train his hand and make a living, he painted and sold copies of works by legendary artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Rembrant van Rijn, and Marc Chagall. In 1968, he abandoned his painting practice and joined the Italian Conceptual art movement Arte Povera. For several years, he even shared a studio with one of the group’s most prominent figures, Alighiero Boetti. Salvo befriended legends of American Conceptual art, such as Joseph Kosuth and Sol LeWitt, and went on to exhibit at some of the art world’s biggest stages, including Documenta and the Venice Biennale.

By 1973, Salvo longed to return to painting, even though the medium had fallen out of favor among his avant-garde peers. For the next four decades, Salvo painted fairy tale–esque, sun-infused landscapes, city scenes, and still lifes, filled with cotton candy–like trees, technicolor meadows, and blocky architectural forms. While otherworldly, the works are filled with nods to great Italian masters, such as Raphael and Giorgio de Chirico. To the contemporary eye, his works might feel especially of-the-moment, featuring a stylistic kinship with the popular contemporary artist Nicolas Party and the Brazilian modernist Tarsila do Amaral.

—Sarah Gottesman

February James

B. Washington, D.C. Lives and works in Los Angeles.

Last month, as we celebrated Black History Month, curator Larry Ossei-Mensah told us about February James, a rising self-taught artist creating dynamic figurative paintings. James strives to capture a person’s essence in her paintings, rather than their likeness. As a result, her ethereal watercolors of bodies and faces are steeped with emotion. “The works are autobiographical and represent her own experiences,” Ossei-Mensah explained. “They tell stories. If you look at the eyes, you can tell there’s something more happening within this picture, and you try to reconcile what that is.”

Collectors have taken an interest in James’s work, too—there have already been nearly three times as many inquiries on the artist’s works on Artsy in 2020 than in all of 2019.

Before COVID-19 put a pause on in-person art world events, James was slated to open a show of new work this spring at Luce Gallery in Turin, Italy. In 2019, she was featured in a group show at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery, curated by artist Nina Chanel Abney; in recent years, she’s worked on collaborations with Solange and Diplo. This past fall, for her solo show with L.A.’s Wilding Cran Gallery, “A Place to Belong,” James transformed the exhibition space into an enveloping domestic sphere that looked as though it were plucked from one of her paintings.

—Casey Lesser

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