The digital age, with its 140 character limitations and emoji-laden conversations, has made it difficult for us to stay focused. A study by Microsoft concluded that the human attention span has shortened from 12 seconds to eight seconds in little more than a decade. We now have a shorter attention span than goldfish.
For those of you still reading this, rest assured it’s worth the effort. As subjective as art is, there’s nothing quite as rewarding as discovering something that captures your gaze, and there’s a plethora of talented contemporary artists creating work that will do just that. The execution of thoughts and the abstract perspective of a common theme or idea can be both breathtaking and beautiful, and is what contemporary art is all about.
After scouring hundreds of galleries around the world, we’ve uncovered 10 contemporary artists whose work we admire. Spanning painting, sculpture and installation, you should definitely keep an eye out for them should they ever exhibit in a gallery near you. In the meantime, take a look at the list of contemporary artists below and see why they make up some of our current art obsessions:
Los Angeles-based painter and poet Alex Chaves creates playful pictures that offer an intellectual and entertaining view of the world. Born in New Jersey, last spring his New York solo debut – cheekily titled “The Rose Period,” after one of the earliest and most popular phases of Picasso’s career – crowned him the art world’s next darling of figurative painting.
Known for his intimate portraits and sensually-charged still lives, Alex continues to explore these themes in his new works while further approaching abstraction through colorful camouflage motifs.
For Frieze, he transformed the booth with an architectural installation that plays on the ideas of isolation, concealment and exposure.
Alex is represented by Martos Gallery, NYC.
Daniel Jacoby makes abstract narrations using videos, texts, publications, performances and various other formats. They draw together a whole series of scientific curiosities, anecdotes and references that often intertwine, but always contain an element of uncertainty.
For his second solo show, Daniel created flat shapes following the geometrical patterns of clothes, thus obtaining abstract sculptures hiding subtle anthropomorphic vestiges.
Through the use of different dim-light atmospheres, an enigmatic universe opened up, placing us in the position of flâneurs, walking around a circuit made up of LED lights and module structures.
Daniel is represented by both Maisterravalbuena Galería, Madrid and Antoine Levi, Paris.
Takuro Kuwata’s Pop Art bowls appear far-removed from the traditional Japanese tea ceramics to which he pays homage. Dear Tea Bowl featured metallic vessels oozing with droplets of gold or silver, and porcelain covered in thick, cracked layers of gloss.
In other works, by inserting large stones inside clay vessels prior to firing them, Kuwata encourages his objects to rupture and burst — to literally explode. This technique is known as ishi-haze or “stone explosion,” and traditionally involves small stones inserted into tea ceramics.
Kuwata uses oversized rocks to obliterate his forms as they expand in the kiln, further highlighting their jagged edges and surfaces with his own take on the Shino-yu “cracking glaze” technique.
Takuro Kuwata is represented by Salon 94, NYC.
There’s a certain familiarity or charm that oozes out of the paintings of Alejandra Hernández. The characters portrayed, particularly in Las Tras Gracias, could be taken from a much more playful and colorful, less menacing Larry Clark movie.
Vibrant and fantastical, each painting makes you wonder where it came from, what the narrative is and who the subjects themselves are.
It’s the color that plays such a big part in creating these rich, symbolic scenarios. The familiarity between herself and her subjects is also clear. Often friends and fellow artists will pose surrounded by objects, belongings and decorations, all injecting that extra bit of personality into each of her works.
Alejandra Hernández is represented by La Veronica, Modeca.
Heidi Hahn brings a thoughtful and refreshing perspective to the medium of painting. Often engaging with the female body, the artist’s layered paraffin infused images utilizes a consistent cast of characters. It’s hard to spot a man, with her primary focus being emoji-faced women adorned in a ’70s style and lounging around, commiserating or crying.
The artist’s sumptuous application of paint and seductive layered surfaces draw the viewer into a psychologically-intense narrative that unfolds across the paintings.
The works engage the psychological realm of attachment to the female body and how that’s processed through both a traditional and a contemporary reading.
Heidi Hahn is represented by Jack Hanley Gallery, NYC.
Inspired by the grand halls of the 20th-century Romanian Peles Castle, artists Katharina Stöver and Barbara Wolff began to collaborate under the moniker Peles Empire in 2005. The castle, Schloss Peles, is not merely an inspiration persevered in their pseudonym, but actively continues to represent the artists’ practices of appropriation and re-staging of architectonic structures.
Their exhibition “1EYE 2EYES” included a complete re-staging of the gallery space. New sculptures, photographic wallpaper, Jesmonite objects, carpets printed with photographs and paintings form an all-embracing installation whose motifs had been generated from images previously recorded within the very same gallery space.
Peles Empire is represented by Wentrup Gallery, Berlin.
Investigating issues of nationality and identity construction, Venezuelan artist Sol Calero embraces the style of a culture misrepresented. Rich in tropicália – fruits, plants and “exotica” – her works are restrained only by the hand-painted frames that contain them.
Currently showing at Laura Bartlett Gallery in London, Calero embraces a kind of “Gesaumtkunstwer” (total work of art) sensibility, connecting areas of the space by constructing beach side outhouses and painting the walls in pastel shades that compliment her art.
Sol Calero is represented by Laura Bartlett Gallery, London.
After majoring in Art and Psychology and throwing into the mix a little inspiration from David Lynch and Nick Cave, Dan Attoe’s creations result in a surreal collision of the grandiose and everyday.
His work is an extension of an ongoing personal project and consists of his daily drawings turned into more studied and complicated paintings.
Waterfalls, beaches, mountains, rocky cliffs and over-sized forests are populated by tiny figures. Noir-ish settings host miniature humans spouting diaristic missives, often reinforcing varying perspectives on our childhood and youth.
Dan is represented by Peres Projects, Berlin.
Human desire is something that has always interested Susuma Matsuura. Intimidating but at the same time pure and beautiful, the complexities of human nature drives his interest and inspires him to delve into the minds of people he encounters.
Born in 1989 in Hokkaido, Japan, the young artist works mainly with silk-screen, designing worlds that explore creation and reason. The models of his portraits are not of any one particular person but a combination of many types of character.
Buildings, streets, goods in shops, flowers, trees, pavements and parks also feature in his quest to make sense of the process behind invention.
Susumu is currently taking part in various residency programs around Europe.
Some people are just too talented for their own good. Already juggling life as bassist with North London touring band Gengahr, Hugh Schulte is a talented painter whose work you may recognize if you’re a fan of his aforementioned band.
Citing Kandinsky, Matisse and Paul Klee as inspirations, Schulte began painting with the aim of figuratively capturing familiar everyday objects. Working exclusively in oil, he constrained his practice by using traditional materials and methods.
After experimenting with abstraction, his vision is to now combine or clash together both opposing approaches in order to create some kind of pictorial tension; an aim he is clearly pursuing in Bathed In Light.
Hugh Schulte is currently on tour with his band Gengahr.
If you’re in the mood for more art, check out our round-up of this month’s best exhibitions worldwide.
- Words: Tom Giddins
- Lead image: Wentrup Gallery