20 Contemporary Artists You’ll Want To Know From New York’s Frieze Art Fair


As New York’s 2014 Frieze Art Fair came to a close yesterday, a whole population of self-aware men were finally able to kick back in a cashmere snuggie and let loose their tight, brain-cell-constricting man buns. Oh, and there was some art too. The highlights:

1. Jonas Wood.

Born in 1977 in Boston, Massachusetts, Jonas Wood depicts the world through a flat and modest painting style. His paintings are colorful, distorted interpretations of everyday life as once-realistic images are suddenly rendered unusual forms. The space and environment that Wood paints ends up taking on a life of its own in much the same way as Van Gogh’s pieces do.

2. Samara Golden.

Samara Golden likes to create miniature worlds out of her all-encompassing installations — worlds that, it is often said, offer an honest glimpse into her mind more than anything else could. In a nod to pop culture, Samara’s installation feels like a hybrid of Candyland and Alice in Wonderland as it envelops the viewer in visual orgasms. She uses the material Rmax for the majority of the pieces here, an aluminum-faced foam board that her father also worked with.

3. Charles Avery.

Avery was born in Scotland in 1973, and since 2005 he’s attempted to depict his very own imaginary island through his work. And an intriguing island too — apparently every facet of it encompasses a philosophical query or theory. At Frieze this year, Grimm Gallery showcased Avery’s portrayal of a specific locale on his island: the fictional municipal park, Jadindagadendar, in the island’s capital city of Onomatopoeia. As is the case with most of his fictional depictions, Avery creates an environment here that feels unknown and unfamiliar. His garden, after all, isn’t comprised of life but of lifeless trees and plants, suggesting the island’s strong sense of human will, which often overrides the need for nature.

4. Isa Genzken.

Hauser & Wirth exhibited On the Fabric of the Human Body at Frieze this past weekend, an exhibit that features four different artists — Isa Genzken, Rita Ackermann, Paul McCarthy and Louise Bourgeois — and each one’s attempt at depicting an aberrant or contrarian interpretation of the human body. The beauty of contemporary art, this exhibit seems to suggest, is that it is not confined to science.

It’s no surprise that Genzken should show up here; her work has always shown a preoccupation with the human body. Yet with each work there is always one aspect that’s glaringly absent: the flesh.

5. Paul McCarthy.

Hand, Palm Up is one of a series of McCarthy’s work called PROPO in which he photographed the props that were used in his performances earlier in life. It was a great choice as it seems to encompass much of McCarthy’s artistic customs: twisted humor and slightly-hostile critiques of society.

6. Rita Ackermann.

Here, Rita Ackermann uses an inventive collage approach to illustrate her perception of the male and female bodies in The Man and The Woman, respectively. And she does the same in her more abstract paintings (Fire by Days XVI, 2011, pictured below) as well as elevates the human body by allowing it to take shapes and forms that aren’t limited to our traditional or ideal body standards.

7. Simon Fujiwara.

Born in London in 1982, Simon Fujiwara likes to explore sexuality and identity in his artwork. His inspiration comes from an appreciation for writing, writers and storytelling. He likes to create conflicts in his work, as we can clearly see above, in his lavish mirror that beckons you to take a selfie yet simultaneously commands you not to take a photo. As he does with much of his work, Simon manufactures a space in which desire is stifled by a more powerful, vaguely political decree.

8. Douglas Gordon.

Born in 1966, gordon works and resides in Berlin, Germany. He’s been known to take images from culture and reappropriate them, which he does in the one shown here, entitled Self Portrait of You + Me (Sofia Loren). In this 7-part work, Gordon alters photos of the iconic actress in various ways that attempt to engage the viewer and create a work that’s contingent on audience interaction. Gordon cuts out Loren’s eyes and lips and replaces them with mirrors, in which the spectator will inevitably peep his or her own reflection.

9. Karl Wirsum.

Hailing from Chicago, Wirsum is part of the particular ilk of artists known as The Hairy Who. And to give you an idea of his cachet: after twenty years in this field, his cult-like status still remains. Wirsum pursues weirdness in everything; he flaunts the most amusing oddities from ordinary life that only he’s able to detect. And his work has an unmistakable element of dark humor, taking from our familiar world and then spitting it back out in his characteristic childlike aesthetic.

10. Kehinde Wiley.

Los Angeles native and New York based, Kehinde Wiley comes from a long line of portraitists — Reynolds, Gainsborough, Titian and Ingres to name a few — and so it makes sense that he would successfully continue this tradition. In his paintings he explores black culture, interweaving themes of glorification, heroism, and wealth. And they’re colossal in size for a reason — they interrupt your everyday activities and call attention to a subject that many would rather ignore: critical portrayls of masculinity and phsyicality in black culture. Interestingly, he often asks his subjects to post in a manner that others might consider “typical” because they’ve seen it before in historical works that claim to be representative of black culture. The result is a beautiful juxtaposition of the “old” and the “new,” as Wiley breathes new life into antiquated and bigoted ideas.

11. Anna Gaskell.

I couldn’t take my eyes off these four images by Anna Gaskell. Her work often examines themes of childhood and the otherworldly, which give her photos a mystical quality. They’re patently visceral — seeming to reach out and actually pull the viewer into the composition — in a thrilling yet ominous way.

12. Bjarne Melgaard.

Born in Sydney, Australia and raised in Norway, Bjarne currently lives and works in New York City. His work has always been deviant and perverted; he’s never cared for the traditional or the conventional in art. And while this particular piece is certainly small in scale and doesn’t seem to do justice to his extravagantly cartoonish and massive works of the past couple years, it still evokes that same subversive perversity that we love him for.

13. Berta Fischer.

Oh Berta, so dreamy…She uses synthetic materials like PVC and acrylic glass to make these beautifully hypnotic, glowing structures. The bright colors might be what initially grabs the viewer’s attention, but the subtleties will convince the viewer to stay. Subtleties such as the slightly transparent effect that’s laced throughout the work and conveys a sense of honesty and emotional transparency.

14. Farhad MOSHIRI.

Iranian artist Farhad MOSHIRI has long been interested in knives, but not for the reasons most people are. What interests Farhad these household items’ dual purpose: cooking and killing. His art provides a sarcastic, sardonic take on ordinary life that always deserves pause.

15. Shimabuku.

In addition to its unmistakeable humor, Shimabuku’s work is also surrealist. He likes to render that which is familiar unfamiliar, as we can see in his playful piece below in which a painting stands up on its own two feet. Mixing life’s most ordinary elements, he discovers a wealth of opportunities to weird people out.

16. Yayoi Kusama.

Born in Matsumoto City, Japan, in 1927, Yayoi has been an esteemed artist for some time now. Frieze housed her characteristic pumpkin this year, which has been interpreted as her “alter ego.” But the pumpkin is an intimate symbol for her too; growing up during WWII, her town was lucky enough to escape unscathed and, throughout the war, their produce actually thrived. One image that figures prominently in Yayoi’s memory from this time is the overabundance of pumpkins that her town had access to. But as we can see, Yayaoi’s depiction of the pumpkin isn’t to scale — it’s distorted and almost alien-like because, in her typical approach, she must never forget to address how strange and senseless the world can be.

17. Spencer Finch

Spencer Finch’s work is poetic, through and through. It’s commendable the way he attempts to depict intangible, practically undefinable things — like a sunset, a particular scent, or a fleeting feeling. Yet paradoxically, his work is also rooted in science — specifically colorimeters, which reads the average color and temperature of light.

18. Marina Abramovic.

Born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, Marina Abramovic’s art is always charged with political awareness. It wouldn’t even be a stretch to call her the greatest artist of our time; she consistently uses her own self and body as her subject, often enduring physical harm for a larger, greater good. And Carrying The Skeleton (2008) is one of her most seminal works to date. But to her, pain isn’t a means to an end; though the theme of pain in her art is pervasive, it’s the triumph of pain that she celebrates.

19. Sylvie Fleury.

Born in Geneva, the contemporary pop artist Sylvie Fleury likes to investigate gender roles through her artwork and uses exceedingly creative mediums to do so. At Frieze this year her installation Skin Crime 3 featured a crushed Fiat and a giant razor blade. However if you examined closer, you’d notice that the car is cloaked in a pink nail garnish. The effect is at once hard and soft — “masculine” and “feminine.” Eternal Wow on Shelves, her other installation, features an unknown, flubber-looking substance spilling off shelves, establishing an inexplicably feminine vibe. Her playful nods to gender roles are everywhere, and can be found in the least conspicuous of spots too; even the walls of the exhibit were painted in a light makeup foundation.

20. Spencer Sweeney.

Spencer Sweeney is as much an artist as he is an NYC socialite, DJ, musician, and club owner. He doesn’t attempt to define his identity with one interest, but rather with the fact that his entire life is a grab bag of various pursuits. And his artwork is, if nothing else, a reflection of this. The only constant throughout his work is that there is no constant.