21 Artists to Watch in 2021: Part I of 2021’s Movers and Shakers

ANTE mag is proud to shine a spotlight on the dedicated artists who are exerting an impact in the art world in 2021. From ongoing or upcoming solo exhibitions, to gaining recognition through artist talks, recognitions, awards and international residencies, these are some of the top artists we have an eye on as we move into the new year.

Below we center on the first 7 of our group of 21 artists selected for 2021. Each artist has images but click through to their websites to view more of their practice and familiarize yourself with your favorites!

Lead image courtesy the artist. Melissa Joseph “That pink van took us a lot of places, but never got us here” (2020) Needle, felted wool, inkjet print on Indian duppioni silk 21 x 27 inches

Cecile Chong

Lives and works in New York City

Cecile Chong, at the Joan Mitchell Center

ANTE mag. Can you tell us more about the use of “layering” in your practice and how it applies to all artistic disciplines that you work within?

Cecile Chong. My work is about cultural interaction and interpretation. I layer different materials where they become signifiers representing a place or a culture for me. I was born in Ecuador to Chinese parents and lived in Macau with my grandmother for five years between ages 10 and 15. After that, I returned to Ecuador for high school and then came to New York at age 19 to study art. I came to realize that my early life and cultural experiences were very intense, with the transition from one culture to the other being very abrupt. It was as though I was the character of one story line and was suddenly plucked out of it and placed in another narrative in a different setting, speaking a different language. Those experiences also included different religions, socio-economic statuses and family dynamics. Looking back, sometimes I feel like I grew up in some epic movie. At age 10, I went from spending weekends celebrating indigenous festivals like Inti Raymi near the family hacienda in the Ecuadorian Andes, to spending school vacations in the rural family village in Canton China during the Cultural Revolution. I think that these experiences have giving me a lot of subject matter and insights to work with. 

Encaustic paintings, part of Breath of Blue at Selenas Mountain (Cecile Chong)

I love finding materials that I can incorporate into my work that have meaning or bring some kind of memory. My paintings have 25 to 30 layers of encaustic (heated beeswax, resin and pigment) and I embed different materials (rice paper, volcanic ash, circuit board materials, figures from different books) within those layers. I usually have other projects going on where I apply a similar layering approach with materials. In my “Strainger” Series I use beads from donated necklaces and accessories that are mostly plastic or glass and combine them with beads from different types of rosaries. I also use natural materials and seeds mainly from the Amazon forest like acai, tagua, pambil and huayruro. In my tapestries beside the conventional yarn and ribbon, I’ve also been finding meaning in different materials that I include like  utility cords, tassels, feathers, LED lights, metal charms, pom poms, which makes me think of things like colonialism, natural environment and indigenous communities, current technologies, colonialism, industrialization,  labor, women’s issues, rebellious teenage years, etc.  In 2019, I started working with stop motion animation and began layering languages that I grew up with at home (Spanish, Cantonese, Hakka and English).

ANTE mag. Your practice is influenced by such a range of issues, including economic factors, environmentalism and culture. How do you balance this wide range of influences in your practice?

CC. I react to different issues that resonate with my personal experience. I work intuitively. Some issues bother me, then nag me until they come out in my work. 

I started EL DORADO – The New Forty Niners in 2017. It was a result of the president’s hostility towards immigrants. I was also a public middle school art teacher for many years in Sunset Park. In 2016, I saw how the president’s politics and words were affecting my students, their families and, I’m sure, thousands and millions of immigrants in this country and beyond. The atmosphere in my classroom was somber and tense with students being fearful of family members being deported. I then read that 49% of NYC households speak a language other than English. I held on to that number and developed 100 colored “guagua” (Quechua for baby) sculptures. I painted 49 of them gold to honor that 49%. EL DORADO (The Golden) – The New Forty Niners became a public art installation traveling to each of the five boroughs of New York City, one borough per year, and presented as a contemporary archaeological site. The installation has been installed in four boroughs of NYC. It is now installed at the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art at Snug Harbor on Staten Island until March 28. Towards the end of this year, it will be installed in Manhattan as its final borough. 

In 2018, I created a series of paintings addressing the cruelty and absurdity of the family separation policy at the US and Mexico border, which is driven by underlying racism towards people from Central and South America. This policy is a manifestation of the xenophobia and the general opposition to non-white immigration. The titles of my paintings such as DNA Matching, Bully, Border Crossing, Caged In, Nearly Full Capacity, Not Summer Camp, Day in Court, all came from reading about this issue and feeling frustrated and shocked about the cruelty being perpetrated. Unfortunately, as we know, up until last month, the parents of at least 628 migrant children still have not been located

I have also been creating large scale installations. I have always used nature as a setting for my paintings. Earlier in my practice, I created installations with the idea of the viewers becoming the figures in my compositions. In 2019, I was spending part of my summer visiting my mom in Quito when the fires in the Amazon forest were everywhere in the news. Being one country away from the epicenter, I was devastated and numb. I thought about how we treat nature as though we are not part of it. We destroy, burn, divide the land and we treat mother nature as the other. For the title of the installation I took the “m” out of “mother nature” and created “_other Nature” at Smack Mellon at the beginning of last year.  _other Nature was a room-size installation with a fence dividing the room with one side lush and thriving and the other side stunted after human intervention.

I think that “balancing” the influences in my practice happens when I confront what bothers me. It is that “nagging” feeling that happens and that tension that needs to be released that makes me address different issues through my work.

EL DORADO – The New Forty Niners Cecile Chong at the Newhouse Center of Contemporary Art

ANTE mag. Can you speak more on how your background as an immigrant artist impacts your work?

CC. The migration experience of my family and my own experience has allowed me to have multiple viewpoints and an outsider’s perspective. Perhaps “fresh eyes,” to look for clues and inspiration in the materials, history and people of a place, physical or spiritual, and to draw insight about its core essence. In the many places I have lived, I think I have been seen by most as somewhat of an outsider.  In Ecuador I was “la china”. In China I was a “ghost girl” (foreigner). In the US, I’m an Asian woman with a Spanish accent. I’m okay with that. I look at my life’s travels as a gift. As a result, I feel very connected to my community.  I just define my community maybe in larger terms than most.  I think when people arrive at a new place we try to find similarities between our old and new environment to anchor ourselves. I think when you spend enough time doing this you come to the realization that we’re all more similar than different. In my work, I do want to depict those commonalities that we all share as humanity.

Nature is very important in my work. Culturally the move to Asia from South America was extremely abrupt and disorienting for a 10 year old. I struggled to look for clues to my previous life in Ecuador. Initially it was difficult finding a common thread in food, language or people, but it was easy finding the connection that I was looking for in nature, in grass, flowers, plants, rocks, clouds, the sky, the sun and moon. That finding was extremely comforting and reassuring. Living in a city (Quito, Macau, New York), many of these natural elements could be found in the cities’ green spaces . My own experience of relocating makes me wonder how newcomers benefit from city parks, and how city parks evolve and feed off of the arrival of these different immigrant communities. I’m excited that this year I will be participating in the Urban Field Station Artist Residency program to research the connection between city parks and their surrounding immigrant communities. This project somehow feels like an extension of EL DORADO to me.

Outside my studio I also want to collaborate and create opportunities for others and help recent immigrant artists navigate the NYC arts scene. Last year I participated as a mentor in NYFA Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program and loved it. I feel at this point that I have a lot to contribute as an immigrant artist, but also as a mentor to immigrant artists.

ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?

CC. I look forward to be working and expanding on my “(in Blue) series” which is based on Blue and White ware, and its role throughout history in transmitting ideas and imagery across cultures. I love how it traces a global journey of migration and cultural exchange. I’m excited to be doing formal research on Blue and White ware through a fellowship which will complement the work I’ll be doing in my studio.

Lionel Cruet

Lives and works San Juan, Puerto Rico and New York City

Lionel Cruet

ANTE mag. Can you tell us more about your practice and how it evolved as a result of global forces (pandemic, travel bans, etc) during 2020?


Lionel Cruet.
Surely, my studio space has evolved this past year 2020; and it has got completely reduced to the essential, more than before. I have focused more on visibility and communication using social media. I noticed that this year allowed me to communicate with my audience about nuances of my practice in a more effective way.  In regards to the practice I have done much more research than before and I have managed the ways to use and language and communicate the ideas of my artworks effectively. I will say that after all it has been productive. Traveling has been a bit stressful and risky but I have to say that getting all the correct information has been the key. 


ANTE mag. Your exhibition at Yi Gallery, Dusk/Daybreak, in 2020 was immersive, forcing the visitor to focus and slowing their gaze. Can you expand on how encouraging the viewer to encounter your work in a specific manner is important to you? Is it critical to slow the gaze when encountering your most recent body of work?


LC. When I was thinking about the exhibition there was a constant thought on making it immersive – as all other projects that I have created before – but this one was crucial to have an ambiance with a tinted red light as it made reference to multiple experiences. Most, importantly I wanted the audience to readjust their gaze and enter into an overarching visual and environmental effect. Recently there has been studies that state that the use of red light in coastal spaces helps to keep a balance and protect species like sea turtles that come out to land at night to nest. These red lights have been installed in some areas and I see it as a way to negotiate the spaces that these animals inhabit as well as different communities. Since the body of work references these alternative views of the coastal spaces, and the effects of natural and artificial light as well the relationships that happen in these areas, I thought it was necessary to flood the exhibition space with a red light. 

Installation shot, “Dusk/Daybreak” at Yi Gallery – solo show of new works by Lionel Cruet

ANTE. How has your ongoing work as a teacher impacted your artistic practice and vice-versa?


LC. I have to be super honest, I see both of them integrated. In my practice as an artist as well as an educator I perform lots of research, including social interaction and community building dynamics. In one way or another they feed each other. For the past year all academic activities have moved online and I think this is a positive new challenge to overcome. I have to bring all these dynamics into the virtual space and being in the academic practice as well in the arts for a decade now, moments like this make me rethink what I do, reduce and be more pragmatic and effective. 

ANTE. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?


LC. Wow, I’m actually grateful to say that there’s much I’m looking forward to in 2021, starting now with the release of this interview with you for ANTE mag. I’m also creating an installation art project at the Center for Contemporary Art in Quito that is inspired by the entangled memories of mangroves. Additionally, I’m participating in a residency program in Quito, titled Ventisca, organized by La Planta. I will be focusing on subjects of ecological awareness and alternative forms of education. I’m also part of an upcoming exhibition Seascape Poetics curated by Bettina Pérez-Martínez at the 4th Space Gallery in Concordia University in Montréal. Last but not least, I will be participating in an upcoming online event titled Charla Fun from a microgrant project by the USLAF U.S. Latinx Art Forum. Stay tuned on my social media – including Instagram @lionelcruet @lionelcruetstudio – for updates.

installation view of Lionel Cruet’s for “Entre Nosotros (Between Us II)” for Spring/Break

Mark Eisendrath

Lives and works in Baltimore, MD

Mark Eisendrath

ANTE. Tell us more about your journey as an artist: how did you get your start in your practice as a sculptor working primarily in wood?


Mark Eisendrath. I was working in paper and the things I was making were getting perilously close to falling apart due to the volume of texture, collage, and other media I was applying to the works.I was also using fire in my pieces to get the effects I wanted. So I needed a more substantial material. 


ANTE. During your virtual studio visit with Pelham Art Center, which I enjoyed greatly, you spoke to the conceptual approaches you mount in your sculptures, both free-standing and wall mounted, and I wanted to hear more about what you are considering in terms of philosophy and the other influences that impact your work.

ME.  What grabs me and pulls me into the shop is my materials. Not what they are but what they can be. I get an idea, I sketch it out, and sketch it again, and again. If it becomes an interesting drawing    then I know it’s worth considering bringing it into the physical world as an object. But I have to be careful- sometimes the drawings become so enticing that I try to make the sculpture exactly like that –  and that’s not enjoyable.


ANTE. We’ve spoken in the past about your narrow escapes from death and resulting impact on your everyday life in terms of visual impairment: in what ways do you think coping with the effects of your injuries have positively impacted your work?


ME. I don’t see the world in stereo – I see it in mono, which makes certain things pop out to me; while others are unavailable. This is a gift. I am drawn to flat picture planes- sidewalks, building facades, the earth at my feet, the end-grain face of cut firewood. All of these contain their scars and imperfections which is more than likely why I work with wood the way I do. I am stimulated by what I see, my injury causes me to miss some things, but I ‘see’ so much more.

“Warlord” by Mark Eisendrath (image courtesy the artist)

ANTE. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?


ME. I love how I feel after a day in the studio – I  am physically and mentally taxed. It’s a beautiful thing to have your work be a workout. I look forward to what’s possible. Specifically, I am looking forward to making a series of prints from both my raw materials and sculpture created specifically for this printing process. There is also a series of pieces in my sketchbook that are hungry to see the light of day. 

“A Different Story” by Mark Eisendrath (image courtesy the artist)

GOODW.Y.N

Lives and works in New York City

portrait of the artist, GOODW.Y.N

ANTE. You participated in the Smack Mellon exhibition “Bound Up Together: On the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment.” Can you shed insights on your contribution to this exhibition?

GOODW.Y.N. Performing Ain’t I a Woman (?/!): Kingston Legacy II at Bound Up Together: On the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment revealed to me how much of women’s history in the country is tied together in an entanglement of destiny. The struggle for freedom from oppression, the necessity to carve out our own futures, both with and outside the hands of men really made me think about my female/fem ancestors who were trying to create a place for themselves in this world free of bigotry. Our voices are imperative and our presence is needed. I push for that to be seen in my work. 

Ain’t I a Woman (?/!): Kingston Legacy II at Bound Up Together: On the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment – GOODW.Y.N at Smack Mellon in Brooklyn, 2020

ANTE mag. This past year you produced several iterations of your performance series, “Ain’t I A Woman” across New York City. How did you choose the sites for this performance and how did you consider it as site-responsive in these multiple contexts?

GOODW.Y.N. When it comes to choosing sites for Ain’t I a Woman (?/!) I lean on historical, political and/or personal intricacies behind the “life” of each site. For example Ain’t I a Woman (?/!): Black August was a response to the history of Black August and its celebration of Black radical leaders, and how that is tying into the BLM movement and murals in New York City now. When I did Ain’t I a Woman (?/!): HOMEBound, HOMEComing however, I was performing and crafting from a personal, internal place and time within the history of my life and I connected that to the ancestors who were resilient enough to survive slavery in the United States.  I don’t truly know if the site is responsive or not until I am performing on it. Every place has its own spirit, its own energy signature and I like to tap into that onsite. 

ANTE mag. Can you tell us how your practice is developing/has developed as part of your MFA education at DIAP at City College (Digital and Interdisciplinary Art Practice)?

GOODW.Y.N. When it comes to my practice I’ve learned to lean on my words a lot more than I have in the past 6 years. The portraits I paint studying digital arts, and combining that with my other passions (body-performance, poetry) gives my work a unique flavor, a richness that never resided in it before. I am learning more and more about how I wish to tell stories, whether it be my own or someone else’s. 

ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?

GOODW.Y.N. We’re remodelling the home studio to include these classic posters around the walls, I really love the new energy that is coming to me from these posters! I think that they will inspire me to create new works that center around the state of affairs today and what tomorrow may look like. 

“Ain’t I A Woman” by GOODW.Y.N at Trump Tower, Fifth Ave in 2020

Melissa Joseph

Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY

Melissa Joseph

ANTE mag. Can you introduce our audience to your practice and the type of mediums you work within?

Melissa Joseph. Hi Everyone! Thanks for taking time to get to know a little more about my practice.  I am a visual artist and I work with fibers, found objects, my family photo archive, ink, watercolors, and collage.  Most recently I have been exploring different types of felting with wool as a way to paint.  I am also making an experimental video, my first video project, as part of a residency at BRIC.   My entire practice is an endless investigation of how different bodies are permitted to occupy space.

ANTE mag. During our discussions on your work, it’s become evident that you’re very dedicated to perfecting your methods working with fiber art. To this end you’ve completed a residency with the Textile Arts Center among other residencies you’ve completed. Can you tell us how you’ve arrived on the methods you use in your fiber art work in particular and the type of content you feature in these series?   

MJ. I am a material artist, so connecting to an object’s presence is important to my process.  In my 20s I was trained as a textile designer, which has broad applications, but was a language that felt natural to a childhood found object maker like me.  Humans’ connection to textiles and the relationship textiles have to body and memory are so compelling.  Fabrics hold the form of the body long after being removed. They become emotional and political spaces, which is content that I could mine forever. In my work, I often start with Indian silk that is part of my material memory of my childhood and of my late father.  He wore this material often.  I print photographs from my family archive onto the silk, and then use needle and wet felting to create interventions or distortions to the imagery so that it more accurately reflects my lived experiences and memory.

ANTE mag. Can you talk to us about how your work as a curator feeds your practice as an artist, and vice versa?

MJ. I love this question!  Seeing art feeds my soul, and by extension feeds my practice.  I often stop to think about how, as artists, we all make such oddly specific work.  I never get tired of looking, connecting and discovering new art. Curating provides the space to analyze, celebrate and share artists and work that I love.  Some I love because it feels familiar, some I love because I think the message is important, some I love because I  find it beautiful, some I love because it is technically mesmerizing– the reasons to love artwork are endless.  When this enthusiasm meets the evolutionary tendency to sort and categorize things, magical things happen, like curation.  Curating also gives me a chance to zoom in on particular artists and artworks in a way that I might not get to do otherwise.  It is a way of discovering relationships between people, ideas, and conversations that are happening across disciplines and content.  I have a habit of obsessively sharing work with others if I think they might like it.  Sometimes I even send images of art to strangers I follow on instagram if I think they might relate to it.

ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?

MJ. I am looking forward to my upcoming Workspace Residency at DieuDonne!  Tatiana and Amy are so generous with their mastery of paper making, and I can’t wait to see what is possible and how I might incorporate it into my practice.  

Image courtesy the artist.
Melissa Joseph, “Flannel nightgowns, homemade cakes and Garfield underwear”
2020
Needle felted wool and sari silk, inkjet print on Indian duppioni silk
27 x 21 inches


Elaine T. Nguyen

Lives and works in San Francisco

Elaine T. Nguyen

ANTE. Can you introduce your practice to ANTE readers, starting with your “Chapters” series?

Elaine T. Nguyen. Chapters is a reflective body of work addressing my lived experiences without the nostalgia that memory can bring. It is a recap of the significant moments in my life where my perspective and world shifted. The series is colorful and honest, each painting a new chapter with a cast, theme, or symbolic meaning described in words or displayed through imagery. With descriptions setting a scene or time such as “I Pepper Sprayed my Ass in the Anzo Borrego Desert” or “The Summer of Snark, Playlists, and Chocolate Chip Waffles @ Midnight”. It is a visual story and one that is less emotionally driven than previous works.

As part of my studio practice, I keep monthly sketchbooks, a process that dates back to 2015. It was through these books that I found myself in a reflective mood and one insistent on honest self-evaluation and growth. Chapters started out as a summary of different segments of life and that was made purely for me to reflect on and not something that was ever intended to become paintings. It was upon rereading those words that I realized how easily it could be transitioned into paintings with imagery and more importantly, how much I wanted this to exist not just as words in my journals. I created a ton of sketches of all these moments and the colors came easily, more about the feeling of certain colors than the colors in real life. It was the desire to have these be colorful that led me to the traditional stretched canvas and paint. I work on multiple paintings at the same time which allows me to continue making as one piece is drying and it also supports my color palette and how that can be seen across different paintings pulling them closer together. I go back and forth from painting to painting to sketching out new ideas and flipping through old sketchbooks when I am a bit stuck on a shape and sometimes even color combinations I created previously and never used.

Chapter 23: Tap It In. Elaine T Nguyen, 41 x 37″

ANTE mag. “Chapters” marks a departure in many senses from your 2017 series I admire, “I Can’t Wait to Remember This,” although they share a sense of bright colors and memory-making. How does memory play in impact in your paintings?

ETN. What I find interesting about memory is every time you remember something it becomes less and less accurate. That’s what started my series I Can’t Wait to Remember This, this need to remember these glorious moments and more importantly how it made me feel. That’s where the color came in, the vibrance and playful nature of mixed media with sparkles and tinsel, and a blend of colors is a reminder of how saturated these moments were with childlike joy.

This series, Chapters, was not so much about remembering or processing but about being honestly
reflective of past events, the factual moments rather than the romantic nostalgia of memory. I didn’t draw inspiration from the most beautiful moments in life but the most impactful, the times where my life and my perspective has shifted. Each painting is a new chapter, there is an element of growth and difference with these. Though my past events are memories, the focus here is on a larger idea of collective storytelling piecing together a visual book of sorts and an ode to all of the impactful things that shape who I am currently.

ANTE mag. During our conversation as part of your recognition in the ANTE mag 2020 open call win, we discussed your text-based works on fabric. Can you speak with us about the beginnings and evolution of this body of work?

ETN. Blue Talks, the text-based works we had previously spoken about, invited audiences in to discuss, the work not necessarily about me, but the experiences that I share with a marginalized group of people. The transition between Chapters and Blue Talks began with a creative break. During this time I read books and I also reread my old sketchbooks, all 60 of them. I went through years of my life finding connections, observing common themes and ideas, seeing my younger self grow. It got me thinking about how I would section my life: the conflicts, the friendships, the moments and places of significance. What started out looking like an outline to a book became intertwined with imagery, paintings easily coming to mind representing each new chapter of growth. Chapters is an autobiography, or rather, a memoir due to its selective memory and fluctuation in the timeline. The color choices are always based on how that memory feels, occasionally pulling from the actual colors of objects but it does lean more towards the colors that excite me, the ones that feel more accurate based on emotion. The beginning works of this series are paint based, but as I continue I find myself incorporating mediums I previously used such as cyanotype, fabric, and embroidery. I have become more invested in breaking out of the frame and being intentional with the display.

ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?

ETN. As my work evolves, medium-wise, I find myself delving back into the draped fabric and a combination of that with stretched canvases. I am also finding myself incorporating the embroidery that I was doing but on sturdier surfaces and on top of the paint. Conceptually, I am moving away from real lived experiences towards making up memories that don’t yet exist. I’m interested in this modern concept of “manifesting’ our own realities and have been focusing on dreaming up my own future. There is so much unknown currently in the world but there is a lot personally known of where I would like to be and the memories that I want to eventually make. I am looking forward to manifesting my goals, envisioning trips and friendships, and also writing and painting my own future chapters. I’m looking forward to this body of work is the culmination of work I’ve made so far, one that you can observe and say it all speaks to each other in a fluid way rather than a part of a progression.

Chapter 21: What I’ve Been Up To. Elaine T. Nguyen. 48 x 42″

Ziyang Wu

Lives and works in New York City

Ziyang Wu

ANTE mag. You have an ongoing exhibition on view through February 18th in NYC and an upcoming show in Singapore. Can you talk to us about each show, and what work you have included in each?

ZW. I’m showing my most recent project Where Did Macy Go? in both shows. The show in New York includes the main video and a large print (video still). The upcoming show in Singapore (My first solo exhibition in Asia) will include a large projection of the main video, 5 prints (video still) on aluminum, and a giant inflatable of the protagonist Macy (18 x 7 feet). 

Where Did Macy Go? is an 11-episode animated video told through a series of reports of Macy’s encounter with the epidemic, life during the quarantine, search for his grandfather’s farm and his revival. The video discusses the collapse of old community structures, the emergence of a new community after decollectivization, Confucian obedience vs. social obedience, as well as the new tele-republic of home, “mask politics” and social justice under the pandemic. Originally posted on TikTok to challenge the possibility of online exhibitions, the work is a response to this era of volatility, complexity and confusion. 

Heavily inspired by Homi Bhabha’s The Third Space theory, my project often includes setting up a multi-layered system to trigger the collision of various conflicting or seemingly unrelated elements and topics from different social and cultural backgrounds. Due to Covid-19, it’s the first time we seen so many thinkers from all over the world writing about the same issue at the same time, from Italian philosopher Giorgio Agemben’s techno-totalitarism, to the argument between Slovenian philosopher Zizek and Korean-born German philosopher Han Byung-Chul: The re-invention of communism vs. the vigorous restoration of global capitalism, to French philosopher Bruno Latour and French writer François Gemenne’s argument on COVID’s influence on climate change, to Paul B. Preciado’s Pharmacopornography and Tele-Republic of Home. By juxtaposing all the complex and even conflicting arguments above, I was able to examine the “in-between” space of different social and political ideologies using COVID-19 as context.

ANTE mag. As an extension of your practice you’ve been creating AR filters which are regularly becoming wildly popular across social media. Can you talk to how these filters expand your practice outside of perhaps a narrower view of what constitutes Fine Art studies at the university level for example?

ZW. Similar to posting the videos on TikTok, these AR effects and Instagram filters, which is a part of the project Where Did Macy Go?, are also my response to the current time where many exhibitions were trying to recreate an IRL experience on their own websites, while I prefer to take advantage of what Internet and social media does the best: sharing and redistributing. So far these AR effects have been shown over 100,000 times on Instagram. 

I think they opened up some new possibilities for my work. For example, when using the Macy (Split Face) filter, every user becomes a version of Macy. When thousands of users post their own version of Macy, the dimension of this project are widely expanded (both conceptually and geologically), which is very important to the in-between space I was seeking to achieve. Additionally, when using the Macy (Playboy) application, for example, dozens of characters’ faces in the scene are replaced by the user’s face, which creates a new possibility for a collective narrative. It could also be seen/used as a new tool for performance works. 

This mode of exploration and experimentation exists in all my works: They often start from an event, a moment, an emotion, or a stimulation that I have strong feelings about. I will then start my research including studying the related philosophy and history, collecting archives and data, and finding the most appropriate medium to realize the project, which often includes learning a new technique or collaborating with professionals in the related field. It is very important to examine what each medium is best at, and be able to choose the right medium that could convey your concept the most successfully and efficiently. Especially, each medium and genre have their own established ways of experiencing the works. When we utilize a particular medium, we already have a long history in its own field that serves as the context of experiencing the work, which could be either taken advantage of, and/or be used to challenge and subvert.

Image courtesy Ziyang Wu.

ANTE mag. Speaking of academia, you are also busy working as an instructor at SVA and ITP. How do you find that teaching impacts your practice in the studio and vice versa?

ZW. As a visual artist, I have always believed that my responsibility and function (or what artists are best at) is to ask questions by constructing a visual experience, instead of solving problems (For example, activists, scientists and politicians are so much better at solving problems than artists). 

What teaching brought me, is the notion of solving problems through education, and achieving something through a collective manner, especially in today’s unique context. I have been making a few collaborative projects in the past few years, and I’m hoping to do more in the future. 

ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?


ZW. I’m currently working on a project titled Networked Ecosystem (in collaboration with artist Mark Ramos) – A live-simulation project that presents an ecosystem built of a variety of AI senses. Commissioned by NEW INC, Rhizome and Nokia Bell Labs, Networked Ecosystem takes LIDAR (location and distance), GECKO (temperature, humidity, air pressure and gas density) and other robotic vision and sensing data collected by Bell Labs’ experimental robots and sensors over the past few decades, re-purposing it to drive a 3D environmental simulation that viewers explore and interact with the simulated world and each other in an ever-changing environment. In particular, the simulation will present AI’s past, current (Covid-19), and future encounter and experience of climate change based on the massive collected climate related data, to contemplate questions about human’s sensory relationships with robot and AI, and how they survive in the chaotic world we’ve created.

Image courtesy Ziyang Wu.

Artist Melissa Joseph Reflects on Weaving it All Together

For this interview series, we sat down with the artists of “Intrinsic” – an exhibition on view at The Yard, Williamsburg Bridge in 2020 – to gain insights into their practice and learn more about what inspires them and the background informing the artworks they had on view in the exhibit (visible on the “Intrinsic” exhibition page on Antecedent Projects.) Artist Melissa Joseph shared her reflections on how her work with textiles and fiber art has evolved, the images her work expresses and the projects she is tackling end of 2020/start of 2021!

(Above work: New Wefts (2019) by Melissa Joseph, Inkjet print on Indian duppioni silk, twine, found stones and yarn. 24 x 24 x 2″)

Above work, “When the penpal came from England with Annalee” by Melissa Joseph
Wet felted wool and sari silk
5x 6 in
2020

ANTE mag. For “Intrinsic” at The Yard, Williamsburg Bridge, you featured works embracing a range of processes, including weaving and working with felt. Can you talk to us about the range of processes you engage with and how these have developed in your practice?

Melissa Joseph. I understand the world through materials.  I use intuition and my image archive as points of inspiration and reference, and then filter them through media, often textiles and fibers.  I feel a deep connection to natural fibers, stone, and heavy metals more than other materials.  They always find their way into my work.  I admire weaving, but I am a novice and it makes my brain work in a different way than it usually does.  It’s a way to explore structure and have less control over the final product than I normally do.  I like to challenge myself with things like this from time to time, but I will always return to the ways of making that feel more natural for me.   


ANTE mag. Can you tell us about your recent work in residency with the Textile Arts Center and your recent exhibition there?

Melissa Joseph. The Textile Arts Center is an amazing place.  It allows for play, skill-building, experimentation and growth.  It is also the most supportive and empathetic community I have ever encountered.  I was able to try several ways of making and in the end, I landed on felting.  It was a way to paint with fiber, and I loved it right away!  From the name to the process itself, it reflects the themes of my practice and personality.  In my most recent exhibition there, I showed a collection of felt works alongside some found objects that I have collected.  Any image-based work I make is always related to the emotions of the materials. 

Above image, “Mary Aunty’s wedding to Thankachan Uncle” by Melissa Joseph
Wet felted wool in hydrocal with embroidery mirrors
8 x 10 x 1.5
2020


ANTE mag. What aspects of your practice have you been deepening during lockdown and quarantine in recent times? Have you embarked on new projects, series or processes?

Melissa Joseph. I am a double Capricorn, which might not mean much to some people, but to some it might explain how much I have thrown myself so fully into my practice during quarantine.  It’s partly a survival mechanism, but it’s also a way to process some of the things that are going on.  I really only started felting in March, so it’s been a covid-tinged discovery.  I am in the middle of a pretty deep dive with it, trying to see where it can go.  


ANTE mag. What upcoming projects can you share with us that are in the pipeline?

Melissa JosephI am excited to share that I am curating a few shows late 2020/early 2021.  One is at a gallery called Shelter in Place.  The gallery is 1/12 scale, so all the artworks are tiny.  Another will be online through the Textile Arts Center.  More info on shows I’m participating in and my curatorial projects on my Instagram, @melissajoseph_art . I am also a Video Artist in Residence at BRIC Media House in Brooklyn, so I am trying out some animation and video software right now that I hope will lead to something cool eventually!

Artist Sarah G. Sharp Stays Inquisitive – Intrinsic Interview Series

For this interview series, we sat down with the artists of “Intrinsic” – an exhibition on view at The Yard, Williamsburg Bridge in 2020 – to gain insights into their practice and learn more about what inspires them and the background informing the artworks they had on view in the exhibit (visible on the “Intrinsic” exhibition page on Antecedent Projects.) We spoke with artist Sarah G. Sharp on the concepts that feed into her practice, the projects she is embarking on and some new considerations that are pushing her work forward.

Sarah G. Sharp, Kinship Series “KinShip Chevron (Teal)” Mixed materials. 36 x 32”
2019 – https://sarahgsharp.net/artwork/4655649-KinShip-Chevron-Teal.html

ANTE. For “Intrinsic” at The Yard, Williamsburg Bridge, you exhibited works that feature a range of different camouflage printed fabrics juxtaposed against boldly colored embroidery depicting sacred geometry. Can you explain the genesis of this body of work and its evolution?

Sarah G. Sharp. The work in “Intrinsic” is from my series Kinship. When I’m working outside of NYC, at artist residencies in rural areas, or while traveling, I end up going to commercial fabric stores for studio materials. During hunting season these stores, despite usually being located in suburban strip malls, often have displays of camouflage textiles and hunter’s shirting. There is usually a huge range of camouflages, including “real tree” which is a sort of trompe l’oeil pattern of oak leaves and tree bark, and multi-distance or multi-scale camo, which looks like a pixelated version of traditional camo, but is made to disrupt the figure for digital video cameras used in contemporary surveillance and war zones. 

When I was developing this series, I was reading Donna Haraway’s Staying With The Trouble. Her writing about kinships combined with my research into early feminist publications framed my thinking about the kinship between knowledge bases represented in these fabric stores; who was selling and buying these “camoflage” textiles, who was sewing them, then who was using the sewn product and how does this intersect with gender roles, domesticity vs. public persona and our ideas about wildness and nature. 

The Kinship Chevrons use various camo and hunters fabrics along with metallic fringe and original machine embroideries with designs based on sacred geometry as a way to evoke the complexities of these relationships to the land, animals and plants. I want to diffuse and complicate the meaning of these fabrics made for hunting and war by combining them with formal languages and materials that are craft-based, celebratory and propose a new futuristic use for these textiles. 

ANTE mag. Can you tell us about your work on other projects as part of your extended practice, such as the Toolbook Project?

Sarah G. Sharp. One of my persistent studio interests over the past few years has been print media from last century, especially underground and radical presses. In 2017, I decided to make my own publication, “The Tool Book Project” (https://www.toolbookproject.org/). The Tool Book Project is a three volume set of publications, and a platform through which I organize related gallery exhibitions, readings, panel discussions and other public events where artists and community members address relevant social issues together while highlighting and supporting organizations that are doing meaningful social justice work. 

The Tool Book project was, initially, a response to a crisis I saw many artist and writers facing after the 2016 election, both in very real terms regarding how their lives and the lives of the people they love would be affected by the budget cuts and fear mongering policies of the new Administration and in terms of a crisis within the studio, questioning the value of practices that may not obviously intersect with social justice or activism. I wanted to find a way for artists to use their practices to support organizations that were already doing meaningful social justice and community organizing work, and make a way for artists to connect with each other around these issues. I put out an open call and compiled over 40 responses into the first Tool Book, which was also a fundraiser for Black Lives Matter, [the] Callen Lorde [Community Health Center], the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and Sane Energy Project. 

During the production of the first volume of Tool Book, I was an artist in residence at SOHO20 Gallery in Brooklyn where I held a series of events. For one of the events, Tool Share Roundtable: Art and Activism, I invited four artists and writers who are also longtime community activists to publicly discuss how their political engagement intersected with or ran parallel to their studio and writing practices. The most recent volume, The Tool Book Project Volume III: Work Book, focused on Art and Labor, reprinting Art Workers documents alongside contemporary artwork and essays in a risograph magazine. Last November, as an artist in residence at the Textile Arts Center, I was able to combine my studio practice with Tool Book. I invited the original members of Tool Share Roundtable: Art and Activism from the first volume of The Tool Book project to convene with members of the Textile Arts Center community to revisit our conversation from 2017, and consider where we are now, in the lead up to the next election. We worked on a community quilt and discussed self-care, impeachment, election anxiety and reflected on how our lives and practices have changed in the past few years. 

Sarah G. Sharp, “Volume II: Tool Box” Boxes: paper, book-board, fabric, magnets, edition of 10
12″ x 12″ x 12″
2018
https://sarahgsharp.net/artwork/4465417-Volume-II-Tool-Box.html

ANTE mag. What aspects of your practice have you been deepening during lockdown and quarantine in recent times? Have you embarked on new projects, series or processes?

Sarah G. Sharp. I have found that this crisis has made me question some of my normal ways of working. I have been much more focused on the parts of my studio practice that are generative, for me, rather than making work for public consumption over the past few months. So, a lot of drawing and playing with materials. I’ve been thinking about how to adapt the parts of my studio practice and  inspiration that is based on being out in the world and seeing and touching materials. 

When the lockdown started, I was preparing for two Spring solo shows that were postponed (one of them will be at NARS in Brooklyn in May 2021.) My vision and the work for those shows has developed and shifted during quarantine, so they will be quite different from what I had initially planned. 

ANTE mag. What upcoming projects can you share with us that are in the pipeline? 

Sarah G. Sharp. I have been developing textile and wallpaper patterns based on my research into feminist publications from the early 1970’s, at the height of the fight for the ERA and leading up to Roe v. Wade. In my research, I was interested to see smaller, regional communities having conversations about issues we are still navigating today, like reproductive rights, fair pay for women, recognition for domestic labor and unchecked white privilege. I found a lot of dialogue around women using new media technologies of the era, like video and cable TV, but also radio and other art forms. There were also reminders about global resistance movements working in solidarity with each other and that armed struggle was seen as a viable option in the name of revolution. 

The patterns I am developing, tentatively titled “Burn Witch, Burn,” are based on articles about witchcraft, the power of cable television, radical socialism and women in the art world. I am also developing an Augmented Reality component to this project. I hope to debut this work at NARS in Spring 2021. 

Land Lines at Davis Editions: New Works by Ann Tarantino

Land Lines

On view through November 25, 2020

Virtual Exhibition via Davis Editions: Instagram @DavisEditions

solo show of new works by Ann Tarantino


Sidewinding (2020) Ann Tarantino, on view in Land Lines

When describing the imagery present in her solo exhibit, Land Lines, with Davis Editions, artist Ann Tarantino recalls her time walking the streets of Kyoto during a trip to Japan. “I just remember power lines criss-crossing above the street while ambling through Kyoto,” the artist reminisces. “Seeing these overlapping lines made such a strong impression on me.” Works on view in the artist’s current solo show with Davis Editions evoke this sense of trajectory and overlap, with lines bisecting her compositions in translucent swaths of color. Slight hints of pattern and color gradients spread across the surface of these works on paper, forming a subtle shift in background that affects the manner in which the viewer absorbs the work. These shifting, nuanced colors muted beneath sharp lines cutting across the surface of these works form a strong contrast. This juxtaposition makes quite the impression, mirroring the artist’s own remarks about power lines crossing the Kyoto sky.

Luminous Geometry (2020) Ann Tarantino, on view in Land Lines

The dizzying dance of lines and colors across the surface of Tarantino’s works are achieved as an effect of her process. The artist works with a CNC machine to etch across the surface of each panel, creating an ethereal effect in the composition as a whole. This process is also a reason why the lines cut so clearly across such a complex background image, leading to the clear outline of specific elements which stand out so clearly against the patterns receding back into the picture plane. Tarantino’s works on view in Land Lines manages to capture clear, linear progressions, even within compositions so saturated with visual texture and such a vibrant range of color hues. Thus, minimal qualities of these works rises to the viewer’s eye first, emerging through the range of elements on view in each print.

With a range of public art projects, installation works and works on paper, Tarantino is an artist whose style is adaptable to multiple formats. Her flexibility and keen eye for composition serve her will in this stunning survey of recent works. Land Lines provides a window into the mind of an artist keenly observing her environment, breaking it down into its concrete components. Tarantino mines the sublime from the natural world, paying careful attention to gradations of light and repeating elements. The patterns crossing through urban cityscapes and the dappled shadows cast by a tree branches both find a home in equal measure in these evocative works Tarantino has produced in the past year. A meditative and rewarding foray into Tarantino’s practice for any who view the exhibition.

Land Lines is on the Davis Editions Artsy page and is visible on their Instagram, up through Nov 25, 2020.

Poetics of Dissonance: Curator Nina Mdivani Interviews Artist Rusudan Khizanishvili

Rusudan Khizanishvili (1979) is based in Tbilisi, Georgia. She is a figurative artist who has been exhibiting in the West in the last ten years, more so in Europe. Recent years have brought more exposure to her unique, sumptuous manner of handing acrylic and oil paints. She invites viewers into her multi-layered portals of distorted figures and animals, with these portals acting as symbolic doors between cultures, nations, times and identities. The artist explores borders as a cultural phenomenon while commenting on a society starved by the prevalence of digital reality in her practice. These works lack harmony because, to the artist, contemporary reality is more about the dissonance than about a peaceful co-existence.

As it is with the music of Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky, Khizanishvili creates tightly controlled dissonance within her overall harmonious tableaux. In the following interview, themes touched on include this atmosphere of uncertainty in Khizanishvili’s works as well as in the world at large. This interview occurs as the artist’s works are currently on view in Berlin for “Rooms & Beings,” a solo show at 68 Rooms, the project space of Galerie Kornfeld curated by Mdivani and up through January 9, 2021.

”Circus Paradise” Rusudan Khizanishvili. (2020) Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas. 150 x 150 cm.

Nina Mdivani: On many levels this is a very disorienting time globally. How did it affect you?

Rusudan Khizanishvili: Right now, we are living through an extremely complex and stressful circumstances, our planned and structured life has been taken from us and we would need an extremely long time to return to our pre-pandemic frame of mind. By directly affecting the whole world the pandemic brought changes, pushing us to reconsider our own personal positions. The crisis pushed us into a deep self-analysis, and even more profound self-reflection was triggered by the public discussion of racism. In a certain way, Georgians can sympathize with what has happened in the wake of the outcry surrounding George Floyd’s murder in the United States. Going back to the 1990s collapse of the Soviet Union, this incident triggered civil war, bringing the question of rights for ethnic minorities to the forefront of public attention. And the question of ethnic as well as national identity is still an issue in Georgia, not fully resolved in the face of the continuously aggressive foreign policy of the neighboring Russia. This was a theme explored by a group presentation “Crawling Border” at Venice Biennale in 2015 where I represented Georgia along with several other artists.

ND: Has the pandemic changed anything directly in your work? If so, what precisely?

RK: Being blanketed by the cover of pandemic has significantly changed the visual aspect of my paintings. Until now, the closest I have ever experienced such an existential crisis was only through books such as Plague by Camus and Touch by Daniel Keyes. This spring served as a litmus test for my work, taking me on a faraway trip within myself. For a specific period of time, a ceaseless interaction with the outside – that, until now, was one of the ways of expressing myself -has been unexpectedly paused. This catapulted me more toward my subconscious rather than the real life. This change was somewhat traumatic, awakening fears that I have not faced before and bringing physical dimensions to unexpected states of mind.

NM: Fears play a role in your art.

RK: Yes, fears are integral to my visual language as I allegorically paint what terrifies me. This element came to my art over time. I graduated from Tbilisi Academy of the Arts with a degree in film studies what is roughly translated into art director in its Western understanding, so early on I started to create my compositions from a perspective different than a traditional figurative approach. Even today, I approach my paintings as though they are following one moving image after the other, creating a cycle of works. After my graduation I still felt like I was a student for the next 7-10 years. In those important years I worked through my own technical challenges, between what should be and where I was at that moment. Over time I started to travel abroad through invitations to various residencies and art symposiums and at one point found out that I am radically shifting away from any kind of national or folkloric themes in my art. My personal struggles, my search for identity started to gain some aggressive overtones.

I would say that in 2013 my visual language as you can partially observe it today started to take shape by inclusion of taboo images: images of my fears that I started to talk about openly. I found parallels to this approach in the art of African tribes, where interlocutors of the Higher Powers work with images of individual fears. At that time, I started to get feedback from viewers that some paintings produce anxiety in them, namely works about symbolic cross-breeding between animals and humans that I was exploring at that time. And I realized that I was on a right track, because whatever is hidden deeply scares us.

NM : Who are you as an artist now? 

RK: For me, there exist two types of artists, artists who take their stand through actions and those who are storytellers. I certainly am the latter, because I concentrate on my own vision of the world. I look at global questions through my own viewfinder, understand how they affect me and then I retell this story using my own instruments. What I talk about now is the human being writ large. There is all this talk about human rights, but I deeply feel that humanness, uniqueness of any particular person as an individual became obsolete and forgotten. So, whatever I work on is always about a Human, how they try to survive in the world that they have personally created and how the process of saving one’s dignity or humanity is taking place. 

What I am working on right now could be understood through the phrase that there is no harmony left in this world, so I am exploring disharmony and dissonance in the world of total aggression. I am certain that art should not strive to be beautiful. I might change my opinion, but this needs to happen naturally. This perception of the world is also visible in my choice of materials. When I started, I was consistently working with oil paints that dictate their own classical laws of painting; gradually, I switched to acrylic and mixed media. I believe our synthetic existence should be envisaged by synthetic means.

Something new and as-of-yet-unexpressed unexpectedly returned me to oil paints during the pandemic, though. Several exhibitions were postponed and, unexpectedly, this allowed me new space for a deeper self-exploration. As an artist I was given a new stimulus through this release from my comfort zone and this state will continue for a bit as the main motive of my next works.

NM: Do you have a clear idea of what exactly you want to do when you start a painting?

RK: Literature plays an important role in this. The first step I take with a new work is: I think of a sentence that centers a painting around it. Inside my mind it always comes in English, probably as certain homage to American novelists and poets as they have considerably influenced me over the years.  Steinbeck, Faulkner, Kerouac, Plath, Whitman and many other classics of the American writing tradition act as creators of the first outline for my art. This tradition of literature taught me honesty and differentiation of who I want to be and what I want to say. As with them, I am trying to be very open in my works and express what is hidden deep within me.

Symbols inside my works are pertinent to me in the process of painting them, but I never try to force my view onto the observer. To me, they are at a complete freedom to see what there is in that particular point of their life trajectory. I often use religious or mythological themes in my works, I am drawn to sacred nature of this or that story. I am in an imaginary dialogue with an artist who created the work on that theme before: it never is a direct homage, more like a very broad variation on the theme.

NM: Where do you see yourself within mainstream Georgian and international art?

RK: Because I was born when the Soviet Union still existed not in Georgia, but in neighboring Northern Caucasus, Russian was my first language. Later when my family moved back when I was thirteen, I had to learn Georgian. I suspect that at that time my own visual language had been conceived, as what I could not verbalize at that time later became part of my work. My visual vocabulary developed organically from the combination of mythological, pagan symbols as well as in dialogue with elements of Classical art. Based on this I consciously or unconsciously have always perceived myself as an outsider artist within the tightly knit Georgian ‘mainstream’ art. Subsequently, I keep feeling a much deeper affinity with Western and, even more so, with the American art (Louise Bourgeois, Helen Frankenthaler, Rauschenberg, Rothko, Basquiat, de Kooning, Henry Taylor, Kara Walker, Sam Doyle, Henry Darger.) For me, the most important part has always been a creation of a universal painterly language that would be completely free from any national or folkloric references, any kind of national self-identification. Being an artist who lives in Georgia and converses using a global language about private as well as more abstract questions, this has become my most important artistic task.

Installation image, “Rooms & Beings” at 68 Projects in Berlin, Germany. (Courtesy 68 Projects)

NM: What are the main obstacles and breakthroughs you have encountered in the past two years?

RK: These past two years have been very important for me as far as my own self-positioning goes as well as for analyzing my work in the context of the larger society. A big obstacle I encounter is distance, and although I travel a lot and this helps in enriching and globalizing my visual language, I still feel this is not enough. For me to be understood in the West and to be seen by a larger audience, a wish of any artist if she is honest with herself, I need to be more closely connected to the international art scene. And this is my main goal, to be an actor of the big stage: a goal that I am slowly and diligently work towards. – ANTE


In 2021 a dual exhibition is planned at Annarumma Gallery in Napoli, Italy and a group show at Thisted Museum of Contemporary Art in Thisted, Denmark.

Heightened Perceptions: “Forget What You Know” at Art of Our Century, Curated by Kourosh Mahboubian Fine Art

ANTE mag is pleased to review the fantastic panoply of artistic voices curated into “Forget What You Know”: an exhibition on view at Art of Our Century through Sunday, November 15th. Curated by Kourosh Mahboubian Fine Art, works across a range of mediums dissect the process of empirical observation and its relative tension with perception and perceiving, as presented by ten internationally known contemporary artists. Collage works by Chambliss Giobbi are on view alongside works by journalist & cartoonist Anthony Haden-Guest, sculptor Blake Hiltunen, three-dimensional portrait artist M. Henry Jones, fiber artist Dindga McCannon, abstract sculptor Tyrone Mitchell, digital artist Marjan Moghaddam, architectural painter and sculptor Zahra Nazari, narrative painter Sudi Sharafshahi, & painter Khari Turner.

Installation view of “Forget What You Know,” on view at Art of Our Century

Exerting a critical lens on our perceptive faculties, works on view entice the senses with a range of materiality and contrast between analog and digital, 2-D and 3-D formats. Mahboubian’s curatorial statement comments on the perceived interconnectedness of the artists present in this exhibition, along with our own inherent interconnectedness, noting that the exhibition creates an “…environment intended to stimulate and please the viewer’s senses, much as would happen if one were to take a walk in a beautiful garden. Each artist’s work is somehow connected to that of one or two others in the group, but not to all of them.”

Installation view of “Forget What You Know,” on view at Art of Our Century

Evocative textures, lines and materials greet the visitor arriving at “Forget What You Know.” Evocative portraiture spans a range of hues, suggesting the subject’s posture and gesture to the viewer. Painted portraits share visual space with juxtapositions of textured materials approximating the figure, alluding to the shared subject of figuration. Where some works on view share subject matter but diverge in medium, other artists display a similar approach in their process while tackling wildly different subject matter. Where artists McCannon and Nazari create depth and three dimensionality in their works, narrative processes and figuration permeate works by Moghaddam, Sharafshahi, and Turner. The breadth of stylistic and conceptual approaches on view in the exhibition makes it a stunning, not-to-be-missed exhibition for any and all attendees.

“Forget What You Know” is on view 12-6 pm tomorrow and Sunday, November 15th from 12-6 pm at Art of Our Century, 137 West 14th Street in Manhattan, NY.

Esperanza Cortés solo show, CANTAR DE CIEGOS/SONG OF THE BLIND, at Turchin Center for the Visual Arts

The influence of Afro-Carribean and Latin American culture permeates CANTAR DE CIEGOS/SONG OF THE BLIND: Esperanza Cortés solo show at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts at Appalachian State University. On view through February 6, 2021, this meticulously curated solo show brings Cortés’ work to a new audience through a presentation of the artist’s installation and sculpture works. The spirit of Frantz Fanon and the critical lens he cast onto the fraught legacy of colonialism across the Americas seeps through the framework Cortés creates in her installations and sculptures, latent in the textures, materials and compositions on view at this solo exhibition.

Esperanza Cortés, La Mado Poderosa (2016-19) Clay, chains, filigree beads, 30x20x10”

The artist reflects on the works on view in her own words, noting, “My work is informed by the extraordinary hybridization of our Americas…its title speaks of the seizures of lands, the enslavement of people and pillaging of precious natural resources which created the massive wealth of the European Nations and the United States. 90% of Indigenous people in the Americas were decimated by Europeans, from a combined impact of massacres, disease, and overwork. Through this genocide there was a loss of cultures, languages, knowledge, and the rewriting of histories. The history we consumed afterwards in the Americas was written by people of European lineage. For that reason we are unable to recognize the history and accomplishments of people of Indigenous and African descent without prejudicial rhetoric. Which leads us back to this moment in time.” Throughout the exhibition, the artist refers to her own Colombian heritage and the rituals, folk traditions and performing arts that she has encountered and embraced in her own personal legacy. Trained as an Afro-Latin dancer, the artist mines the traversal of sacred space and incorporates this rhythmic and three-dimensional approach in her artistic practice.

Cortés notes, “My installations which are organic and improvisational constructions are infused with hope and renewal.” Her works bring the figurative into dialogue with the abstract, bringing out motifs that reference folk iconography from Colombia and pay homage to her roots. With two grandmothers who served as community healers, or Curanderas, in her native land, the artist reflects on the impact of community on individual and the ability of transcultural transcendence to provide a new perspective on what brings out the shared commonality across communities while acknowledging the hierarchical oppression that colonialism brought to the Americas.

Esperanza Cortés, El Grito de las Flores (2019) Personal embroidery, leather, glass beads, MDF board, 30” dia.

In her work, the artist pays homage to the Afro-Carribean and Indigenous histories that have guided her, giving space to the plants, materials and patterns that various cultural influences have guided her and informed her artistic practice. The artist honors and elevates women of these communities as the vital pillars who have worked to hold together families, traditions and enduring craftsmanship. Her loving appreciation for these vital histories and the legends of women who have made their mark in Afro-Carribean and Latin American history is palpable. The balance of aspects of the figurative as combined with organically derived materials such as glass and metal reference the land itself: the constant factor that continues through generations and roots communities to their location and histories.

Esperanza Cortés, A Charmed Life (2008-12) Frescoes, chairs, alabaster and glass beads, amulets, chains and brocade, 7x7x4’
Esperanza Cortés, Second Sight (2008-18) Installation with table and mirror, 20 glass and metal beaded sculptures on clay, 44x54x20”

CANTAR DE CIEGOS/SONG OF THE BLIND, a solo show of works by Esperanza Cortés, is on view at the Turchin Center’s Mayer gallery through the first week of February 2021. Contact the gallery for a video and/or virtual tour of the exhibition: turchincenter@appstate.edu .

Esperanza Cortés, OJO II (2017) 500 eye portraits installation of watercolor on paper, 12’ dia.

In Conversation with Zac Hacmon: Dispositif at SLAG Gallery

We spoke with artist Zac Hacmon to mark the occasion of his solo show, Dispositif, at SLAG Gallery in Chelsea during the Fall of 2020. Our discussion ranged from discourse around boundaries – their formation and documentation – and the use of scale to elicit responses from the visitor. As we toured the show we naturally discussed the non-neutrality of architecture and industrial design, and how abstracted forms can still recall the lingering effects of these intentions. The interaction of these works with one another, their industrial appearance contrasted with the aesthetic approach of the artist to the materials at hand, and the expectation and denial of utility in these works composed of ceramic tile all call to mind the readymade and found object in art-making. We plunged into the show and questioned Hacmon on some of the perspectives he has adopted over the course of his practice, inquiring as to how these viewpoints have impacted his work and, particularly, this suite of sculptures on view at SLAG through Oct 18, 2020.

Apsis  (2019) Zac Hacmon. Ceramic tiles, wood, stainless steel, 5” x 40” x 12”

ANTE Mag. Thanks, Zac, for walking us through your exhibition. We discussed the concept of “profanation” as it relates to your work; could you elaborate a bit on that concept and how it informs your practice?

Zac Hacmon. The concept of “profanation” is based on my recent research which follows the structureof religion and its apparatus. If we talk about the “profane” we must define the sacred first, for something to be sacred it means it was removed from free use of men and from the sphere of human law. Therefore to profane means to return things to their free use and to their pure state. Following this hypothesis, in my work I wish to profane our socio-political structures and the way they form in our built environment.

ANTE Mag. I see. During our conversation I was also struck by your remark “to play is almost a political act”: would you elaborate on that and how it affects your approach to your work?

ZH. It is based on a recent text I started to work with by Georgio Agamben. The text describes the act of play as a political task and it continues the discussion we had before, about the “profane” and sacred. If play breaks up the unity of the myth and rite of which the sacred is powered by then the myth disappears but the rite stays. Same can be addressed with my sculptures in this “Dispositif” show at the Slag Gallery. There is an element of failure in the sculptures, they lost their original function as an architectural structure but they also got a playful element to them that can be activated by touch and movement almost like a toy.

ANTE Mag. I would like to hear your views on the formal qualities of your sculpture as relates to space for inclusion and exclusion – could you provide some context for how sculptures on view at SLAG Gallery relates to boundaries or thresholds?

ZH. The industrial materials I use for my work range from private spaces, domestic and home to the public realm and institutions, by doing that I try to create a hybrid of one over the other and question their coexistence. I use the grab bars in my work in order to create potential for individual access and also to call attention to aspects of regulation mediated through contemporary architecture. The sculptures can be conceived as ruins all together but the ruin is being commoditized and repurposed.

ANTE Mag. Elaborating on the above question, can you provide some context for how your ideas around public versus private space is reflected in your practice?

ZH. Privacy is the higher form of intelligence as we wish to cultivate the self and the being. In contemporary society privacy is long gone, as we live in such a technologically advanced system that we are not even aware of our privacy being gone and violated. In relation to my work, I try to employ this conflict and the duality that I see in our structures, conflicts between function and dysfunction, between public and private.

 Dispositif (2020) Zac Hacmon. Ceramic tiles, wood, stainless steel, grout 
(Installation View)

ZH. The use of readymade is very critical to our time even more than it was 100 years ago when it was presented by Marcel Duchamp. These days, we’ve already crossed the line of no return in terms of the global effects of pollution. Before my Fine Art studies I attended a product design and industrial design degree but in my fourth year I decided to quit when they asked me to design a remote control for air conditioner or a cellular phone, as I didn’t want to be part of the waste industry. I think that through my use and manipulationof the readymade I create an antithesis approach which profanes our acceptance of consumption.

ANTE Mag. Can you discuss the role of the readymade and your work? Is the use of industrial materials in any way political, and why or why not?

ANTE Mag. Finally, can you share some of your upcoming projects with us?

ZH. I am currently working on building Capsule no 4 and Capsule no 5 at my LMCC studio. The “Capsules” are part of an ongoing project of creating alternate, autonomous and inaccessible spaces that invade and penetrate the white cube. The “Capsules” will be part of a group show at the Cathouse Proper Gallery which will take place in November 2020. This work will be site-specific installation for the entrance of the gallery; you will encounter these portals right before you enter the exhibition space. For 2021, I am working on a collaboration with the RDJ Refugee Shelter, in West Harlem (which is a shelter for refugees experiencing homelessness in NYC.) For this project I plan to work together with the shelter residents to create an installation at the shelter space for Fall of 2021.

Positivity (2020) Zac Hacmon. Aluminum, Ceramic tiles, stainless steel, concrete, epoxy, 54 x 27 x 49 Inches

Society, Individual, Suffrage: NYFA x KODA, Womanhood & Women’s Rights Panel on 10/21

The fault lines that are determining our future are trembling in the lead up to this Fall 2020 election, which will be one of the most consequential Presidential elections in our lifetime. Honoring the scale and seriousness of the voter turnout this fall, the New York Foundation for the Arts is partnering with KODA creative lab for the panel discussion, Womanhood & Women’s Rights.

This virtual event will take place on Wednesday, October 21st from 6-7:30 pm, and features a conversation led by professor Ginetta Candelario in discussion with artist Lina Puerta, artist and author Elia Alba, and art historian Tatiana Reinoza. Honoring the the 100th anniversary of the women’s suffrage in the United States, the purpose – according to KODA Lab – marks an occasion to encourage especially Latinx communities to vote.

As per the event site, the conversation will focus on identity at the crossroads of the individual and the collective, and re-examine how gender identity influences our social, political, and economic rights. This event is open to everyone and is particularly geared towards women-identifying individuals. At the intersection of our current sociopolitical reality, and in dialogue with art history and art and culture, this discussion will hold valuable insights for anyone seeking social equanimity in increasingly unequal times.

Artist Spotlight on Alicia Smith, ANTE Open Call Featured Winner

My work gets called “Didactic” a lot, which I learned in grad school is often the white-elitist way of saying “I don’t want to learn history that is not compulsory Euro-centric history.”

“Hueatoyatzintli” Image courtesy the artist.

Multi-disciplinary Xicana artist and activist Alicia Smith is the featured winner of our open call, and it is with great satisfaction that we are featuring her in a weeklong Instagram takeover she’s spearheading this week (if you haven’t seen her videos you’re missing out!) and in this special interview with the artist. The artist holds her MFA from the School of Visual Arts, and was featured at the art fair UNTITLED in San Francisco in Fall 2019.

Smith’s work spans video, performance, printmaking and sculpture to bring awareness to the existing, inaccurately romanticized tropes that deny indigenous women their individual complexity, simultaneously demonstrating their beauty and strength. We learned more from Smith’s perspective on the implications her practice has on the greater art world, as well as the lessons that she has learned from her ancestors and from the wider diaspora of indigenous nations that have informed her practice as an artist and activist.

(Featured Image: “Erendira”, image courtesy the artist.)

ANTE mag. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Alicia! We recently learned about an artwork that you donated to raise bail funds for Black Lives Matter, can you tell us more about how this came about?

Alicia Smith. Thank you! That piece is “Molotov Hare,” and it was created really with Black and Brown solidarity in mind. A marriage of indigenous archetypes and anarchist imagery.
There are many indigenous traditions that involve the rabbit as a symbol of rights of passage for young warriors. The Aztecs had their Eagle Warriors walk through underground caves and emerge, ready to defend their tribe. There are jade sculptures depicting rabbits protecting men wearing eagle headdresses to illustrate this ceremony. Black Elk once said: “For the rabbit represents humility, because he is quiet and soft and not self asserting – a quality which we must all possess when we go to the center of the world.” The rabbit is also a trickster. The Anishinaabe’s Nanabozho in the North and Cherokee and Black communities in the South. Many stories of Br’er rabbit are in fact adaptions of West African tales of Anansi the spider. The trickster felt important in the piece because of his ceremonial role. He forces us to re-evaluate where we delineate societal rules and agreements. He does this through perpetually undermining them.
The image is about duty to your people, and that to change the rules you first have to break them. It felt extremely urgent: I cut the block in a day and started taking orders and I did use the piece to raise bail funds for Black Lives Matter OKC and Millions for Prisoners New Mexico. I’m really proud of this work and [proud] that people have been using that image when they protest police brutality.

“I Believe You” Image courtesy the artist.

ANTE mag. As a Xicana artist and activist, your work embraces themes such as decolonization, the Americas’ native nations and knowledge of the natural world such as plant life and medicinal practices. Can you tell us more about the origin of this journey for you as an artist to research and integrate the crucial, yet still too often overlooked, history of indigenous peoples in your work?
Alicia Smith. I feel like I didn’t have a choice, haha… when the ancestors come knocking you better stand at attention and that is sort of what began this path for me. I had always been a pretty feral child, bringing wild animals inside of the house, and I always had a real lust for knowledge, especially in the way of ecology. I feel like re-examining those complex relationships through that cultural lens has taught me more than anything else. My work gets called “Didactic” a lot, which I learned in grad school is often the white-elitist way of saying “I don’t want to learn history that is not compulsory Euro-centric history.” I know doing that kind of work might dissuade people from wanting to look at my art but I hope given the political climate at large that those same folks are at least taking a moment of pause as to why they don’t want to learn indigenous history of the land they are on. But above all else, if it isn’t for them –  it’s not for them, and that’s fine too. I love encountering first-generation kids, folks who went through a diaspora, who immediately connect and resonate with the work. At the end of the day if all I did was preserve one inch of sacred knowledge in a piece, then I’ve done my job of being a good ancestor for those who come after me with questions.
ANTE mag. To expand on the above question, can you delve into the range of your practice – spanning video, installation, mixed-media – as relates to the themes such as native culture and traditions and decolonization in your work?
Alicia Smith. By foundation I am a printmaker. So all my work often starts as a relief print before it goes into the world of durational art. I like the idea of being a Tlacuilo: a scribe or codex painter, someone who is recording history, ceremony, etc. So I think my 2-dimensional work acts as a kind of codex and my performances and video are the ceremonies themselves.
I call my work “Secondhand Ceremonies,” inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer, because these are partial reconstructions and partial innovations. When you are descended from people who survived genocide it means necessarily reconstructing the old with new innovations: Adaptations.
ANTE mag. You reflect on the words of Anishinaabe cultural ecologist Melissa K. Nelson in your description of your work, “Teomama.” Nelson remarked, “the Native Woman’s body [in so] many stories acts as a kind of meeting place.” Can you expand on how this reflection impacted the development of your work?
Alicia Smith. It’s cosmogeneology. In science it’s just evolutionary biology. The most seemingly innocuous Ant has been on this earth for 120 million years. And in indigenous ways of knowing we don’t look at the ecosystem from this sort of colonial scientific gaze. These beings are our siblings. Plants, animals, insects, fungi, they’re our older brothers. And to explain that ethic of kinship, rather than talking about primordial soup, we do it through these eco-erotic stories, where women are often at the intersection. In the Popol Vuh a woman becomes pregnant eating fruit from a tree. There are stories of women marrying stars, bears, becoming pregnant by the wind and on and on. It establishes an ethic of kinship. When I do these performances with Hawks, Wolves, Deer, Horses, Rivers, and so on, its so important to me to convey the medicines of these beings and their teachings as well as the metaphors I imbue them with in the work.

“Teomama” Image courtesy the artist.

ANTE mag. How has the uncertainty of 2020 impacted your practice, and what current body of work are you focused on?
Alicia Smith. I am very fortunate because I have a government job where we were put on admin leave. I’m also very fortunate that I have been given some room to do what I love to do and share stories from my home, for the museum that I work for. This time at home has been really beneficial for my practice. Unfortunately people who are privileged who dont have to work a 9 to 5 job are usually the ones who can devote more time to their practices and end up rising in their art careers. But this time has allowed me to be so much more productive and to do what I really want to do which is engage with my community and in social justice causes.