January was a busy month in the world of art fairs. The West Coast was abuzz with multiple showings in San Francisco and in Los Angeles. Here are some artists that we found especially noteworthy.
Diana Al-Hadid, Theory, Beard, Practice, 2015, Polymer, gypsum, fiberglass, stell, plaster, gold leaf, pigment
Diana Al-Hadid uses everyday materials, such as plaster, plywood, and cardboard, to create wall structures that seem to rise, fall, and ooze all at once. Simultaneously suggesting a sci-fi future and recalling a mythical past, the pieces combine architectural references like church spires, columns, and broken plinths with simulated fabric drapery and melting wax. Enigmatic narratives are embedded, including references to Pieter Brughel and stories about the mythical Ariadne and the 13th-century Muslim inventor Al-Jazari, who is said to have influenced Leonardo Da Vinci. Many of Al-Hadid's pieces blur the boundary between sculpture and painting. Al-Hadid is a Syrian-American artist who currently lives and works in Brooklyn.
Donald Moffett, Lot 112616 (organic hole, radiant blue), 2016, Oil on linen, wood panel, steel
Born in San Antonio, Texas, Donald Moffett currently lives and works in New York City. He is a founding member of the AIDS activist collective Gran Fury and formed the design studio Bureau with Marlene McCarty. Moffett has a multi-disciplinary practice and is known for his meticulous, yet non-traditional execution. His work is layered with social, political and sexual critique and he often treats the canvas as a surrogate for the body, creating orifices by cutting and flaying or perforating the surface. His recent investigations expand the confines of the picture plane and question the very foundations of painting and its relationship to the wall. Donald Moffett extends the traditional two-dimensional frame of the canvas, turning its flat plane into a rich ground for highly textured relief works and intricate constructions. His work was included in the 2015 exhibition Greater New York at MoMA PS1 and America is Hard to See, the inaugural exhibition of the new Whitney Museum of American Art.
Samantha Thomas, Landscapification #17, 2016, Acrylic, thread and charcoal on canvas over panel
Samantha Thomas presented new works from her Cartography and Landscapification series. The hand-sewn maps of fabric, thread, and paint were worked on while the artist traveled the country. Meant to exist as metaphorical and visual representations of aerial views of landscapes, the pieces question the world, and the geopolitical boundaries that are ever shifting and fragile as thread. While referencing modernist formalism, her compositions no longer seek to explore the infinite contained within the canvas, but allow the language of abstract painting to confront concrete themes of global politics.
Andy Woll, Mt. Wilson (Science Fiction IV), 2016, Oil on canvas
In Andy Woll's Mount Wilson series, the highest point of the San Gabriel Mountains is depicted repeatedly, in varying sizes and colors. Mt. Wilson's presence in relation to Los Angeles is that of a backdrop, an overarching image that recedes from the immediacy of daily exchanges happening within the city. The mountain becomes similarly diffuse in Woll's paintings-ubiquitous and iconic. For Woll, painting is an intuitive, associative act, in which he paints quickly, developing each color palette according to themes in the music he listens to while working or the color palette of vintage science fiction novels.
"Tropical Buren" is a new series by Bogotá-based artist Otto Berchem. It combines Berchem's observations of the lush tropical foliage that surrounds him in Colombia with his interest in the rigor of Daniel Buren's geometric paintings. Berchem's practice frequently involves the study of codes and methods of classification, and by combining Buren's orderly stripes with elements from exotic flora, Berchem creates a hybrid of his own: part conceptual, part natural.
Otto Berchem, Espeletia (Gray), 2016, acrylic on canvas
Born in Olso in 1988, painter Martine Poppe went from trawling for food in grocery trash bins to being discovered by Charles Saatchi, who fell head over heels for her mesmerizing, reflective and haunting artwork. Her latest series examines the relationship between the original subject and the finished work by using meticulously layered brushstrokes to obscure the photographs her pieces are based on. The overall effect is surreal and compelling, like looking at reality from a distance, through a gauze.
Martine Poppe, Nature is good #2, 2016, oil on taffeta
Poppe's work plays with perspective and the nature of her artwork shifts depending on how you look at it, offering up secret glimpses of hidden motifs from certain angles.
British-born painter Tom Anholt lives and works in Berlin. His paintings balance on the verge between the concrete and the abstract. They have been repainted and collaged several times over with their format being changed by adding or removing parts of the canvas. By revealing their own process, each work tells a story and focuses on the abstract nature of painting. Anholt is intrigued by the plasticity of paint and what he can communicate through pattern and texture.
Tom Anholt, Night Town IV, 2016, Oil and collage on linen
"Meticulous" is an extremely apt word that has been used to describe the work of the Brooklyn-based artist Daniel Gordon. While photography is the foundation of his practice, his pieces are equal parts sculpture and collage. Gordon's recent works incorporate sections from hundreds of images of Internet printouts, which he arranges in three-dimensional compositions--generally portraits and still lifes--which he then photographs and prints. The results of this painstaking process are vivid, ecstatic, and ultimately serene three-dimensional tableaus. Gordon has had solo shows at several international galleries and has been included in notable group exhibitions at the Saatchi Gallery, at MoMA PS1, and at the Museum of Modern Art.
Daniel Gordon, Lettuces and Trout, 2016, Archival pigment print
Alexander Kroll fully embraced abstraction and improvisation in painting only after moving to Los Angeles. Kroll, who considers himself a lifelong student of the "technology of painting," is known for his mixed-media, multi-layered works, in which oil, acrylic, and enamel bleed and run into one another. Layers are integral to Kroll's imagery and process; he employs underpainting, collage, and subtractive techniques to imbue a work with multiple surfaces. Since moving to California, Kroll has also been able to paint works in a greater variety of sizes, though he is careful no work is ever larger than his own arm span. In that way, all of his works physically correspond to his body.
Alexander Kroll, Wool and Glass and Neon, 2016, Oil on panel
Michael Berryhill's work occupies the territory between drawing and painting, fusing an intuitive expressionism with a highly self-aware painterly language initiated from previous art historical styles. While his works are fundamental in their combination of diverse influences, he strives to extend beyond a catalog of cultural or historical references. Instead, Berryhill creates work that uses his medium's long history while also responding to his in-process sensory reactions, eclectic cultural taste, and the material conditions of painting. As such, his paintings manage to be both sophisticated and raw, offering experiences that feel simultaneously complete and unpredictably open. A sense of "underpainting" is evoked as if there is light and a whole other world coming from within.
Michael Berryhill, Nature Royale, 2016, Oil on canvas