Getting Their Due
In the past few years, the art world has begun to more graciously reward artists who have honed their practice over previous decades, while remaining inexplicably under-the-radar. Artists like these 10 members of The Artsy Vanguard—a new, annual list of the 50 most influential talents shaping the future of contemporary art practice—are finally getting their due, with museum retrospectives, representation by major international galleries, and surging collector interest.
B. 1948, Santiago, Chile. Lives and works in New York.
Cecilia Vicuña by Daniel Dorsa for Artsy.
Cecilia Vicuña, known as a poet as well as an artist, handily destroys the boundaries between language and sculpture. Many of her works build on the notion of quipu (the knotted strings used as a form of writing in pre-Columbian Peru).
One recent sculpture in this mode, Quipu Womb (The Story of the Red Thread, Athens) (2017), was a standout at last year’s Documenta 14, its thick knotted ropes of scarlet wool hanging down a dramatic 26 feet. Also included in the German quinquennial—considered among the most important iterative exhibitions of contemporary art globally—were the artist’s paintings and site-specific performances, which took place both in Documenta’s traditional home of Kassel, as well as the half of the show that curator Adam Szymczyk mounted in Athens. For one such performance, a ritual marking the end of the Greek portion of the exhibition, Vicuña traveled to the coast and “sacrificed” the ropes of wool used in her installation to the Hellenic gods of the sea.
“Vicuña is a seasoned artist who weaves together threads of language, sculpture, and performance,” says Hendrik Folkerts, a curator at Documenta 14. “Her long and persistent commitment to how we shape and experience history and the body is something I deeply admire.”
Vicuña’s prominent inclusion at the quinquennial marked an important and increasingly visible moment in her career. Previously unrepresented in New York, the artist was added to Lehmann Maupin’s roster earlier this year, where she joins household names like David Salle and Gilbert & George. The artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery will open in May, showcasing a wide range of work made between 1969 and 2017. In 2018, two major institutions are joining together to present a dual exhibition, “Quipu Desaparecido (Disappeared Quipu),” which brings together the artist’s quipu pieces with sound and video elements. One installment will launch at the Brooklyn Museum in May; a second, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, will open in October.
B. 1948, Caetanópolis, Brazil. Lives and works in São Paulo.
Sônia Gomes makes sculptures in cloth. Some hang from the ceiling, dangling and soft like laundry put out to dry; others form stiff loops with armatures of wire, or take the shape of books with fabric pages. Her practice is grounded in assemblage, the reimagining and remaking of reclaimed materials once used in furniture or clothing, suggesting the memories and biographies of their original owners.
Although she did not begin showing work until well into her forties, in recent years Gomes has become increasingly visible in Brazil, as well as in North America and Europe. The artist was included in the main exhibition of the 56th Venice Biennale, and participated in group shows at the Rubell Family Collection, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, and the monumental “No Man’s Land” at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. This attention comes at a moment when U.S. institutions have begun to more fervently embrace Latin American women artists, and Brazilians in particular, as demonstrated by the monographic exhibitions of Lygia Pape at the Met and Lygia Clark and Tarsila do Amaral at MoMA.
Gomes has been represented by the São Paulo, Brussels, and New York gallery Mendes Wood DM since 2011, and she’s shown widely in Brazil. The artist has been also been a fixture on the global fair circuit, where collectors have been snapping up her works. But 2018 is the first year she will receive large institutional surveys of her practice—at the Museu de Arte in São Paulo and the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói in Rio de Janeiro—presenting works that span her entire career.
B. 1936, Cologne, Germany. Lives and works in Aachen, Germany, and Stäfa, Switzerland.
Bereft and slightly whim, like appliances from a future dystopia, Bandau’s sculptures made half a century ago look surprisingly contemporary today. Consider Fahrbare schwarze Sesselgruppe (Driveable Black Group of Chairs) (1971), a pair of black and chrome forms on casters joined by drooping hoses; and Fingerbank (1979), a collection of pendulous black tubes encased in glass—both of which featured prominently in “Ungestalt,” a group show at the Kunsthalle Basel last summer, alongside work by a multi-generational group of artists, from Marcel Duchamp to Adrián Villar Rojas.
Bandau graduated from the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1960, around the same time as Gerhard Richter and Joseph Beuys, and has shown steadily since the late ’60s, but renewed interest in his work has elevated him into a new sphere. The artist’s cutting-edge sensibility also garnered the attention of young, tastemaking galleries in Europe, and he’s now on the roster at both Super Dakota in Brussels and Galerie Thomas Fischer in Berlin.
A recent solo exhibition at the former presented works from the artist’s near-six-decade career—including precisely rendered watercolors with overlapping geometric washes in black and grey, which he began creating in the early 1980s—introducing the pioneering octogenarian to a younger guard that had no idea what they’d been missing.
B. 1920, Caracas, Venezuela. Lives and works in Santa Monica, California.
Luchita Hurtado by Daniel Dorsa for Artsy.
In 2016, a small show of Luchita Hurtado’s paintings and drawings, full of rich color and lively abstract forms, was a breakout hit, garnering delighted notice everywhere from Artforum to the Los Angeles Times. It was an unusually buzzy debut for work that dated from the 1940s and ’50s, and for a show held at Park View, a 300-square-foot gallery in Paul Soto’s Los Angeles apartment. Prior to this, Hurtado’s most recent solo exhibition was held at the Women’s Building in Los Angeles—in 1974.
Hurtado has been making art for nearly 80 years, always in proximity to artists who have received ample applause (such as her late husband, the painter Lee Mullican). She mingled in influential circles, socializing with avant-garde painters like Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, and Diego Rivera in the 1940s; and with feminist artists in the 1970s and ’80s as part of a consciousness-raising group that included Vija Celmins, Miriam Schapiro, and Judy Chicago. But despite this, the bulk of Hurtado’s work has never been shown.
Better late than never: Hurtado’s inclusion in the Hammer Museum’s upcoming “Made in L.A. 2018” biennial will place her firmly within the sphere of the contemporary up-and-comers, including fellow Artsy Vanguard honoree Christina Quarles, as well as Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and John Houck. The exhibition will include a selection of Hurtado’s paintings and works on paper from the 1970s, adding another dimension to the public understanding of her multifaceted and experimental practice.
“‘Made in L.A.’ is fundamentally about showcasing great work,” explains exhibition co-curator Anne Ellegood, who says she also hopes to one day stage a full survey of Hurtado’s career. “But it’s also about community and what it means to live your life as an artist. In this sense, Luchita is an inspiration.”
B. 1958, London. Lives and works in London.
Suzanne Treister was making internet art while the rest of us were still warming up to AOL. Treister began her career as a painter in the 1980s, but it wasn’t long before she began exploring the possibilities of emerging technologies, delving into web art and video games, even sculpting packages for imaginary software. She made her first web project in 1995: a series of linked pages that led the viewer through the rooms in a virtual castle, ending at a downloadable sheet of stickers. She’s continued to keep abreast of the times; her latest projects incorporate machine intelligence technology from Google.
“I continue to be amazed by Treister’s ability to uncover what is not directly apparent,” says Joasia Krysa, a curator of the 2016 Liverpool Biennial, which spotlighted the artist’s work. “She reveals the strangeness of our belief systems with incisive observations of often quirky or forgotten details, and brings new, speculative stories and scenarios.”
Treister’s interests tend towards esoterica like Hebrew numerology, alchemical diagrams, Tarot cards, and secret power structures like spy networks or government mind-control programs. She also credits fictional characters with elaborate backstories as the true artists behind several of her bodies of work. Her expansive series “HFT the Gardener” (2014–15)—selections of which are currently on view in a group show at the Kunstpalais in Erlangen, Germany—is a collection of botanical drawings, watercolor paintings, videos, photographs, and glitch art, all the supposed creative production of one “Hillel Fischer Traumberg,” a London day-trader turned plant-propagating outsider artist.
Treister’s exhibitions circulate in an unusual way—instead of one-off shows, the artist produces large bodies of work that go on tour, dropping in at galleries and institutions across North America and Europe, the way a band might after finishing a new album. One rambling show, “HEXEN 2.0” (formulated between 2009 and 2011), has traveled to more than 30 venues so far. An upcoming digital commission for London’s Serpentine Galleries slated for 2019 will certainly bring even more viewers into the fold.
B. 1946, Cairo, Egypt. Lives and works in Cairo.
Anna Boghiguian is an inveterate traveler, both in time and space. The Egyptian-born artist creates installations that delve into layered histories of imperialism, slavery, and war. Known for her artist’s books, figurative paper cutouts, and large-scale paintings made on ship’s sailcloth, much of Boghiguian’s work fits her roving lifestyle, with sojourns to India and Europe. It’s essentially portable—if necessary, you could roll it up or tuck it into a suitcase.
“When I first saw Boghiguian’s work, I was struck by the cinematic rawness of her drawings,” says Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, director of Italy’s Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art and artistic director of Documenta 13, who has worked closely with the artist in recent years. “She offers a re-entry point into expressionistic drawing and painting without losing the political critique present in so much of the art of the 1990s and early 2000s.”
The artist’s recent solo exhibition at the Castello di Rivoli presented an overdue retrospective encompassing four decades of her work, which has since traveled to the Sharjah Art Foundation. Boghiguian was also included in the Golden Lion-winning Armenian Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale, which memorialized the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. U.S. institutions have also begun to recognize Boghiguian’s significance: The Museum of Modern Art recently acquired 12 of the artist’s drawings and watercolors for its permanent collection, and her first U.S. solo museum exhibition is slated to open at the New Museum this May.
B. 1956, Kanagawa, Japan. Lives and works in New York.
Yuji Agematsu by Daniel Dorsa for Artsy.
Yuji Agematsu approaches the discarded bits of garbage he collects from New York City streets with the care of a lepidopterist catching butterflies. Displayed behind glass or tucked into cellophane cigarette wrappers, his sculptures seem precious. A half-sucked lollipop resting on a thimbleful of road salt resembles a beloved curio, and a whorl of hair adhered to a strand of thread could be a pot shard excavated during an archaeological dig.
Although the artist has been practicing in this mode for over 30 years, collecting and organizing objects he finds during daily walks through New York, his work has not been shown widely until fairly recently. The current vogue for collecting and assemblage found the art world catching up to Agematsu’s own idiosyncratic methodology.
In 2014, the Whitney Museum commissioned Agematsu to create a site-specific work centered around its new location in the Meatpacking District. The result, shown at the museum in 2015, was Walk On A,B,C, (2014–15), an installation of 10 slide carousels cycling through approximately 1,000 handmade slides based on walks he took through the neighborhood. In 2016, the New Museum’s sprawling show “The Keeper,” which spotlighted collecting as an art practice, dedicated a room to Agematsu’s delicate assemblages.
Continuing apace in 2018, he currently has a solo show on view at the Aspen Art Museum in Colorado and is included in “Objects Like Us,” a group show opening May 20th at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Connecticut. He was also recently added to the roster of Lower East Side gallery Miguel Abreu, which represents the painter R. H. Quaytman and the conceptual photographer Liz Deschenes, among others. And, this October, Agematsu is included in the 57th Carnegie International, the sprawling exhibition staged at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art since 1896.
B. 1962, Austin, Texas. Lives and works in Austin.
In February, Deborah Roberts’s collages of young black girls popped up in an unconventional place—a fashion editorial in New York magazine, where they wore the latest from Prada and Comme des Garçons. It’s but one sign that the Austin-based artist is having a big year, with a solo exhibition currently on view at the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, following solo shows at San Francisco’s Jenkins Johnson Gallery and at New York’s Fort Gansevoort. Collector interest has been fervent, and three of her collages—carefully researched assemblages of magazine photographs exploring black female identity—were recently purchased by Beyoncé.
It isn’t just Queen Bey who has invested in Roberts’s career. Other recent highlights include a group show at Galerie Lelong and the Studio Museum in Harlem’s “Fictions,” the latest installment in its landmark “F” series of group shows highlighting groundbreaking artists of African descent. Mark Bradford, Rashid Johnson, Mickalene Thomas, and Nick Cave are but a few of the now-ubiquitous artists who emerged partly due to previous exhibitions in the series; in “Fictions,” Roberts was featured alongside fellow member of the Artsy Vanguard, Amy Sherald, and other on-the-rise artists like Nikita Gale and Genevieve Gaignard.
Of course, what could look like overnight success to some has been the result of many years of under-recognized work and development. “There’s a focus that I see in her approach to artmaking that I don’t see in many artists,” says curator Larry Ossei-Mensah. “And she’s only scratching the surface. What Deborah has been able to accomplish in the last year, a lot of artists don’t accomplish in five or ten.”
B. 1947, New York. Lives and works in New York.
Until 2016, Rochelle Feinstein was often described by critics as influential, if under-appreciated; she had yet to receive the institutional support that she deserved. All that began to change with a flurry of solo shows at museums across Europe that year: retrospectives at the Centre d’Art Contemporain in Geneva, the Lenbachhaus in Munich, and Kestner Gesellschaft in Hannover.
Perhaps Feinstein’s importance has been diffused thus far due to the wide-reaching, eclectic ground she covers. The artist samples from the history of abstract painting—a grid here, a zip or splatter there—but isn’t afraid to shoehorn in text, speech bubbles, digital prints of cats, or oblique references to everything from Michael Jackson to the Iraq War.
For an exhibition leadingly titled “Who Cares” at On Stellar Rays in New York last year, neo-Color Field experiments shared the space with a sheer textile, its surface scrawled with so many references to current events that it became a word salad. Nearby, a messy gestural painting in primary reds, blues, and yellows hung next to a black-and-white reproduction of the same work: a photo printed on canvas. Should we value one more than the other? By sliding cannily between styles and media, Feinstein is nothing if not thought-provoking. A retrospective opening this fall at the Bronx Museum of the Arts—the first comprehensive survey of Feinstein’s work in the U.S.—will finally give audiences a chance to see her full practice in focus.
B. 1948, Winnipeg, Canada. Lives and works in Vancouver, Canada.
Long before Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy started a craze for decluttering and empathizing with all the stuff in our lives, Liz Magor was making work that explored our connection to consumer goods, treating them as receptacles for memory and feeling. Her sculptures often combine casts of quotidian items, like a shopping bag or a cardboard box stuffed with actual cigarette butts or greeting cards. Vancouver, where the artist is based, is generally known for its male-dominated photography scene, exemplified by Jeff Wall, Rodney Graham, and Stan Douglas; as a result, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Magor compares the process of creating her sculptural casts to that of developing a photograph.
Magor has long been an “artist’s artist”—shorthand for credibility, if not exposure—but recent years have seen an uptick in institutional recognition. “you you you,” a major exhibition of Magor’s work, made the rounds of European institutions last year, traveling to the Modern and Contemporary Art Museum in Nice; the Kunstverein in Hamburg; and the Migros Museum of Contemporary Art in Zurich. And recent group shows acknowledge her position as a bellwether for an entire generation of sculptors. At Gladstone Gallery’s “Lyric on a Battlefield,” held in one of its New York locations last year, her work resonated with emerging talents like Kelly Akashi and Monique Mouton; Magor’s sculpture joined similarly robust lineups at Kunsthalle Basel in 2017, and at Clearing gallery in Brooklyn the preceding year.
The future seems even brighter for Magor: She has a solo exhibition at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University opening in February 2019, which will, for the most part, feature new works rather than a look back at her output. The exhibition then travels to the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago in the spring of that year.
Portraits photographed in Los Angeles at Studios 60 and in New York City at Milk Studios. Header image: Portrait of Luchita Hurtado by Daniel Dorsa for Artsy. Produced with support from Sister Productions.