VOTE NOW! NAP ANNUAL PRIZE: 2015 READER’S CHOICE POLL
Help us narrow it down from 1000s of artists to one…In 2015 our jurors reviewed the work of more than 20,000 individual works of art by over 5000 artists. Our jurors have the impossible task of selecting the 240 artists to be featured in the 6 issues of New American Paintings. Of those artists, twelve (two from each issue) were distinguished as being “Noteworthy,” by the juror and our editorial staff.
Well, now it is your opportunity to help us select the best of the best. Below, you will find 2015’s twelve Noteworthy artists listed, along with an image and brief commentary. One of these 12 artists will be named the New American Paintings Artist of the Year! In addition to being featured again in our 2016 June/July issue, the winner of the Reader’s Choice Annual Prize will receive a cash prize of $1000!
Cast your vote by Sunday, January 24 (Midnight EST). The winner of the Reader’s Choice poll will be announced on Monday, February 1. We want to thank all of the artists who trusted us with their work in 2015. One vote per person will be counted!
Learn more about each artist after the jump!
Gina Beaver’s paintings confuse the materiality of paint with the stuff we physically ingest. Having a close affinity with Oldenburg’s food sculptures, Beaver’s Food Porn compositions humorously stand on the shoulders of Dutch still-life painting. They poke at our recent compulsion to photograph our food, an entitlement gesture cloaked in the ethics and economics of contemporary food culture. Beaver handles the preoccupation with our bodies the same way, hyperphysically deploying paint to simulate the aesthetic manipulation of human anatomy. With coarse and palpable address, she conflates painting’s historical relationship to vernacular subject matter and our present-day desire to distort it.
Challiss’s works in gouache and ink on paper have the distinction of being loaded with detail and content yet extraordinarily balanced in their distribution of various types of imagery across their surfaces. Cycle of Bloom and Decay, for example, positions a disembodied eye adorned with decorative flourishes at the center of an elegantly open spiral similarly festooned with precisely placed designed elements. The nuanced texture of the blue background adds further complexity to a composition that is at once mysterious and, as per its title, illustrative of the most essential and predictable aspect of our natural world.
I hadn’t thought about Jack Featherly’s work for a long time. In the late 1990s, he had a memorable series of shows at New York’s Team Gallery, but it wasn’t until UPFOR presented him at the VOLTA NY fair this past March that I realized how much I missed him. Featherly draws inspiration from sources ranging from gestural abstraction to product packaging to graphic design, and has always had an extraordinary ability to work with the medium of paint. He produces paintings that clearly have strong conceptual underpinnings, yet are never heavy-handed. To my eye, his formal choices and subject matter have always been in perfect harmony.
The work of Denver’s Donald Fodness doesn’t take itself too seriously. What is serious, however, is not only the artist’s vision but also his ability to use unexpected materials to incredible effect. His VHS and album cover works featured here transform the lame film subjects on their surfaces into rabid, grotesque, confusing, and fantastically humorous amalgamations of ghastly doodles and text. The works also function as a window into Fodness’s larger (and weirder) sculptural, installation, and transdisciplinary practice. His works are sick in the truest sense.
Lauritzen-Wright is one of only a handful of artists who have been featured in New American Paintings five times, so I have been considering his work for a long time. While his subject matter has constantly changed over the years, there is something about his playful, and some might say outsider, visual language that has remained consistent over time. I never have a problem identifying Lauritzen-Wright’s work, be it on the printed page or in real life. His immediate way of handling paint is always in perfect harmony with the quirky and offbeat subject matter that he chooses to address. It is this immediacy that makes Lauritzen-Wright’s work so easy to like. In a time when too many painters are hiding behind a bunch of conceptual nonsense, his work is refreshingly honest and visually generous.
Romanian-born Ioana Manolache began her artistic training as a Byzantium icon painter, which instilled in her a deep reverence for the activity of painting and a strong belief in the medium’s ability to transcend itself. Her paintings of everyday objects and detritus are shockingly detailed and nuanced. By attending to the mundane with such meticulous devotion, Manolache casts the strongest possible light on her subjects’ commonplace status, while simultaneously offering them aesthetic redemption. Whatever her subject, Manolache is ultimately concerned with painting as a spiritual endeavor.
Amalia Mourad’s paintings of a nude, brown-skinned man named Aaron reimagine myths of gender and race embodied by popular masculine icons. Wearing a bikini top and holding a parasol, Aaron reclines in poses that recall both the painted odalisques of art history and female swimsuit models. Mourad inverts the gender dynamics of these traditions, exposing Aaron’s muscular form and making it vulnerable to our desiring gaze. Instead of being salacious, there is an innocence and intimacy in Aaron’s body language that exposes his humanness and invites more empathetic—and queer—ways of seeing and understanding.
During the review process, I was really taken with the embroidery work of Sophia Narrett. These beautifully detailed works reminded me instantly of the delightful chaos of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. However, instead of creating a fantasy world illustrating moral and religious narratives, Narrett merges visual allusions to renowned paintings. In The Animation of Hands, a group of ballet dancers evoke Edgar Degas’s famous dancers in The Ballet Rehearsal on Stage, while three nude women on a blanket conjure Paul Cézanne’s The Bathers. In the upper left corner, three figures’ faces waver into abstraction in a manner similar to that of Edvard Munch’s The Scream. The full composition comes together in a wild and haunting portrayal of the history of painting that begins to literally, and perhaps metaphorically, unravel along the edges.
I have been familiar with Nudd’s work for close to a decade. He first appeared in New American Paintings in 2007 and this is the fourth time he has appeared in the publication, which makes him part of a very small club. That Nudd’s work has appealed to a range of curators over a period of time is not surprising to me. There is an immediacy and honesty to his work that is always present with the best painters, whatever their chosen subject matter. In Nudd’s case, that subject matter happens to be the human figure. Don’t expect to recognize anyone, though. In Nudd’s hands, bodies are turned inside out, reconfigured, occasionally splayed out and presented as landscape, and subjected to all manner of indignity. His paintings revel in the abject, both in terms of image and facture. To this end, you might not necessarily like what you see, but Nudd’s work will make you aware of your own corporeality in a truly resonant, and I think important, way.
I look at a lot of painting. If there is any downside to my chosen job, it may be that, as the years go by, the works that have an instant impact on me seem to get fewer and fewer. Painting fatigue? Maybe. I prefer to think that my meter for relevant work has gotten more discriminating with time. Sean Phetsarath’s work immediately stood out to me when his application came through, so I am not surprised that he found his way into this issue. Phetsarath uses simplified forms, evocative colors, and a healthy dose of humor in paintings that are ultimately about the difficulty of human communication in our digital age. These paintings effectively demonstrate that the oldest of mediums is up to the task of addressing the most contemporary issues.
In early December of 2013 I was doing my monthly gallery crawl in New York City. I walked into Kate Werble Gallery and was instantly struck by the small yet potent work of Lui Shtini. So much so that I amended a list of “Painters to Watch in 2014” I was about to publish the next day to include him. Forty-eight hours later, New York Times critic Roberta Smith gave his show a rave review. Shtini had a good week. His “portrait” paintings are, at once, raw and technically refined. They have nothing to do with verisimilitude and everything to do with an artist expanding the potential of his medium, while somehow injecting new life into the well-trodden space of portraiture.
Lui Shtini | Viz, oil on board, 20.5 x 16.5 inches
Deb Sokolow creates anxious yet cunning parafictional drawings, artist’s books, and installations that mine history and her own experience to speculate on conspiracies real and imagined. Sharing affinities with Mark Lombardi’s webs of influence as well as Sean Landers’s raw confessionals, Sokolow’s graphite-laden storyboards feature an unreliable protagonist who narrates playby-play accounts (in a peculiar and imperfect all-caps script) to a non-specific “YOU.” Subjects of her recent inquisitions include JFK, Richard Serra, Willem de Kooning, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Jim Jones. Implicating her dear readers and herself in these shifty narratives, Sokolow draws surprising connections between the fallibility of historical record and that of art practice.