“Shih’s food products speak to a seismic shift in America’s demographics that began to take place around the time of the Civil Rights movement... [The] work is both aesthetic and political, a commentary on assimilation as a process in which one’s national origin is not forgotten or erased.” —Hyperallergic
STEPHANIE H. SHIH explores the diasporic nostalgia and material lineages of migration and colonization through the lens of the Asian American kitchen. Her painted ceramic sculptures examine the relationship between consumerism, cultural interchange, and identity in immigrant communities. Shih was born in the US, is of Taiwanese and Miao descent, and currently lives in Brooklyn.
Shih has had solo exhibitions at Stanley’s, LA (2021); Perrotin Editions, NYC (2020); and Wieden+Kennedy, Portland, OR (2019). Her work has also been shown at The Hole, NY (2021); Dinner Gallery, NY (2021); the American Museum of Ceramic Arts, Pomona, CA (2020); R & Company, Miami (2020); Hashimoto Contemporary, SF (2019); Underdonk, NY (2019); and Pioneer Works, NYC (2018). She has been featured in the LA Times, Hyperallergic, Cultured Magazine, Artsy, The Guardian, and NPR.
Born and raised in the Lower East Side, Angel Ortiz (also known as LA2), like so many other kids would write on his desks and chairs in school. When his mother put him in the NYC Boys Club, which he loved because of the access to a swimming pool. His friends at the Boys Club were already tagging up in the streets, buses and sanitation trucks when asked him to join them in using the streets as their canvas. After that, Ortiz was tagging non-stop. He became the King of the buses and sanitation trucks. His tags were everywhere, At the age of 14, Ortiz met Keith Haring, an artist from Reading ,PA. Haring was attending The School of Visual Arts and had a studio in the Lower East Side (The Rat Studio). Of all the tags he saw around the city, the "The LA2 tag" stood out to him. He asked around to see if anyone knew whose tag it was and looked for Angel for months before they were finally introduced at Junior High School 22. Here, Haring and other graffiti artists were creating a mural. He asked if anyone knew LA2, to which SOE, Angel's friend responded and said, "I can get him for you." He went to Angel 's house, told him there is a guy with funny shorts and glasses asking for him. When he skeptically went over to the school, Haring could not believe Angel was a kid! They got along right away and loved learning from each other. Ortiz showed Haring some markers tricks- Keith did not know too much about markers, but he was the King with the brushes. It was as if they had always known each other.
Their first collaboration was that first day on a taxi hood in The Rat Studio. LA2 added his tags and crew names and asked Keith if he could add squiggly lines to add energy. Two weeks later, Haring called Ortiz and told him he had sold the piece and he wanted to collaborate with him. Tony Shafrazi gave him his first show with their collaborations in the Fluorescent Room. Keith Haring then asked his mother's permission to take Angel traveling. He wrote a letter to his teacher and at the age of 15 he was exhibiting in Europe. Through Haring, Ortiz met art icons like Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Richard Hambleton. They exhibited for almost seven years, but continued collaborating till Keith's passing in 1991.
Angel Ortiz lives in NYC and is still creating and exhibiting world wide. LA2 HAS done work for various museums and programs, such as the Children's Museum of Arts, the Children's Museum of East End, Apple Village Arts and the Renaissance Charter School.
He believes meeting Keith Haring was a blessing for both. Humbled to this day that it was his tag that caught Keith's eye.
Once an inspiration to a generation of would-be Riot Grrls, the Vancouver-based painter Jean Smith is now carrying a torch for every artist who dreamt of quitting their day job and making a difference through their work.
Since 2016, Smith has been creating a series of enigmatic portraits that are selling like hotcakes on her Facebook page. So far she has sold more than 1,500 canvas works that get snapped up within minutes.
The haunting portraits of women with angular faces, expressive dark eyes and plump red lips—differentiated by their accessories—are selling fast thanks to their US$100 price point.
The artist—half of the seminal 1980s punk rock duo Mecca Normal and precursor to the underground feminist movement known as Riot Grrrls—was inspired by the tradition of bands like the DIY style, anti-establishment Fugazi, who performed $5 gigs to increase accessibility. Her success has allowed Smith—who is also a novelist—to quit her day job at a Vancouver garden centre and work full time as an artist.
Smith has now raised more than $150,000 for her pet project, the Free Artist Residency for Progressive Social Change. She plans to purchase a suitable property for the residency, which will house her as well as visiting international artists. With Vancouver real-estate prices some of the highest in North America, edging out the city’s creative class, Smith is looking beyond the metropolitan area, although she says she is “open to sponsorship, partnership, collaboration and philanthropy” in order to secure a more centrally located property.
Inspired by photographs, Smith’s paintings (larger works are available at US$650) bear a certain resemblance to the artist. Divided into themes that include Pioneer of Aviation (one work offers a bemused fusion of Smith and Amelia Earhart) Skier,Nurse, Hat and No Hat, the works play with both female stereotypes and aspirations—such as the Affirmative series of mainly black women astronauts—in a way that is fittingly performative.
“There is an intention for emotions and injustices surrounding these images to be visible and understood,” says Smith.
Assemblage artist Betye Saar creates a new, mystical world in her work.
"There has been an apparent thread in my art that weaves from early prints of the 1960's through later collages and assemblages and ties into the current installations. That thread is a curiosity about the mystical. I am intrigued with combining the remnant of memories, fragments of relics and ordinary objects, with the components of technology. It's a way of delving into the past and reaching into the future simultaneously. The art itself becomes the bridge. Curiosity about the unknown has no boundaries. Symbols, images, place and cultures merge. time slips away. The stars, the cards, the mystic vigil may hold the answers. By shifting the point of view an inner spirit is released. Free to create," noted Betye Saar in 1998.
In Betye Saar’s work, time is cyclical. History and experiences, emotion and knowledge travel across time and back again, linking the artist and viewers of her work with generations of people who came before them. This is made explicit in her commitment to certain themes, imagery, and objects, and her continual reinvention of them over decades. “I can no longer separate the work by saying this deals with the occult and this deals with shamanism or this deals with so and so…. It’s all together and it’s just my work,” she said in 1989.1
Saar grew up in Los Angeles and Pasadena, California, and studied design at the University of California, Los Angeles—a career path frequently foisted upon women of color who were interested in the arts, due to the racism and sexism prevalent in universities at the time. Saar eventually studied printmaking, and her earliest works are on paper. Using the soft-ground etching technique, she pressed stamps, stencils, and found materials into her plates to capture their images and textures. Her prints are notably concerned with spirituality, cosmology, and family, as in Anticipation (1961) and Lo, The Mystique City (1965).
Known as The Mad Potter of Biloxi, George Ohr was a genius of clay. Not only does his work in porcelain defy shapes and forms, they hold a certain grace and unique beauty. Wikipedia describes Ohr and his work as follows: George Ohr (July 12, 1857 – April 7, 1918) was an American ceramic artist. In recognition of his innovative experimentation with modern clay forms from 1880–1910, some consider him a precursor to the American Abstract-Expressionism movement.
He is considered one of the first art potters in the United States, a precurser to other art pottery designers and creators such as Rookwood. The Metropolitan Museum of Art describes him as "arguably America’s quintessential art potter. He built his own kiln, dug his clay, threw his vessels with extreme proficiency on the potter’s wheel to wafer thinness, altered those shapes, and then covered them with his own novel glazes. In form and decoration they are essentially Abstract Expressionist objects—almost 50 years before that movement was founded. In fact, deemed ultimately very modern in this century, they had great appeal to such modern artists as Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol, who formed collections of them. Ohr’s work is extraordinarily idiosyncratic and he practiced his own mantra of "no two alike," as exemplified by these works.
Ohr was a colorful character, and his quirky pottery became one of the added tourist attractions on Mississippi’s gulf coast. Self-proclaimed the "Greatest Art Potter on Earth," he was well ahead of his time, and the vases that he deemed "worth their weight in gold" would not command such prices until a few decades ago. Barely ten years after he began making such vases, Ohr closed his pottery, and packed up his pots, literally not to be discovered for another 50 years. Both of these vases came virtually straight from the artist’s cache, and were purchased by Martin Eidelberg, the donor, when the rediscovery of art pottery was in its infancy in the early 1970s."
Working in a range of disciplines, Valerie Meotti strives to give her art immediacy and understandability.
She explained, "Painting and creating visual art has been my passion for most of my life. My motives are not to send a message but to be felt. What one takes from my imagery is yours alone. I have a difficult time explaining why I create but I can tell you how. I have never felt I was a catalyst trying to reveal a profound message.
I am not a singular artist in that I can not settle on one technique of expression. I enjoy having the versatility and knowledge to explore and experiment. Watercolors are my base of operations, the one thing I rely on most. My unique digital transfer technique utilizes my graphic capability but lets me develop it freely like a painting, using both my major influences. With this I cross over into collage components developing most of my mixed media works. Oil painting, I am new to but I love the color and luminescence that can be achieved. I will continue my learning. Ceramics are mainly for the quirky characters I developed called Pistachio People and I still illustrate the little guys. I believe they can be in a successful mass market someday. Someday I will achieve the independence to sustain my art. Just looking for some glimpse of encouragement."
Adam Neate's art career started in the early 2000s painting as a graffiti artist. He went on to a term he calls free art, where he would paint on found pieces of cardboard and leave them around the streets of London for people to find and take home. Over the years he left thousands of individually painted works and was one of the early pioneers of the movement that is now called Street Art. In 2006 he was given the opportunity to show his paintings in a more traditional gallery setting at Elms Lesters, showing alongside established names like Futura and Phil Frost. Since then he has been featured in prominent solo and group exhibitions worldwide to great critical acclaim.
Adam Neate (born 1977) is a British painter, conceptual artist and described by The Telegraph in 2008 as "one of the world's best-known street artists". He specialised in painting urban art on recycled cardboard, and has left thousands of works in the street for anyone to collect. He is a contributor from the movement in transferring street art into galleries. Neate's street art has garnered global interest, having been documented on CNN reports and European television. Major collectors and celebrities are fighting for his original works and international critics have lauded the artist's work. Since 2011 Neate has been mastering his own language of 'Dimensional Painting'. Elms Lesters publish a range of Adam Neate's Dimensional Editions and Multiples
Claudio Parentelais an illustrator, painter, photographer, mail artist, cartoonist, collagist, journalist free lancer. He has been active for many years in the international underground scene and has collaborated with many zines,magazines of contemporary art,literary and of comics in Italy and in the world. His work can be categorized as street art but with a variety of mediums. He describes his illustration style as,"anarchic, cool, conceptual, twisted, schizophrenic, obsessive, and chaotic."
"I feel completely absolutely free only when I’m amongst my 'artistic things' and in my studio, with my photos, my papers, my colours, my glue, my scissors, my ropes, tapes, plastics, all my 1000 things I found around in the city. It’s been difficult to arrive here where I’m now but it’s a wonderful continuous magical journey, every moment and every day," he says.
What advice would you give to other artists? To be and to continue to be, and try to be themselves. It’s so important, and then to have fun to have fun to have fun.
In recent years, some of the most active dealers and collectors in the outsider-art field have been looking beyond Europe and North America in search of interesting discoveries from other parts of the world, including East Asia and Southeast Asia.
Among the more interesting finds to recently emerge have been the hard-to-classify drawings and paintings of the prolific Japanese autodidact Issei Nishimura, which pose something of a challenge for art sellers and buyers alike who want or need category labels to help them grasp what’s going on in his work. For Nishimura’s art is all punch and potency; its genre label might be something as unique as “expressionistic/psychological/automatist/psychedelic-baroque.”
Now, with Painting the Japanese Blues: Introducing Issei Nishimura, Cavin-Morris Gallery is presenting a first-ever US solo exhibition of this artist’s works (on view through February 15) at its Chelsea venue. Although the gallery showed a handful of his paintings at the Outsider Art Fair in New York a few weeks ago, and at last year’s fair as well, this presentation offers a broader survey of Nishimura’s inventive techniques and a concentrated sampling of the intense creative energy — and often bizarre imagery — that characterize his oeuvre.
Yutaka Miyawaki, the Kyoto-based dealer who represents Nishimura in Japan, and with whom Cavin-Morris has collaborated in mounting its current show, told me during his visit to the recent Outsider Art Fair in New York: “Perhaps it’s not even worth referring to Nishimura as an outsider, because what he produces is not what people who are familiar with that kind of art expect to see. I regard him as a contemporary artist — period. However, he is self-taught and he does live in isolation, on the margins of society, and his work reflects an unusual, deeply personal vision. These characteristics are all associated with art brut or outsider art.” (An illustrated Galerie Miyawaki catalog of Nishimura’s work from 2014 can be found here.)
Nishimura was born in 1978 in Aichi Prefecture, in south-central Japan. Today, he lives with his parents in their family home in the hills on the edge of Nagoya, a commercial-industrial city that is Aichi’s capital. There, Nishimura keeps a modest studio space that spills out into a garden, in which he has painted the rocks of a stone path and even some sides of the house.
As a youngster, Issei enjoyed making drawings; later he became interested in American blues music and began playing the electric guitar. He remains enchanted by the mythical legend of the Black American bluesman, Robert Johnson (1911-1938), who supposedly sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his musical talent.
As a young man, Nishimura moved to Tokyo to study music, but he did not easily adjust to big-city life, and socializing was difficult, too. Ultimately, he withdrew from society, returned to the family home, and devoted himself to his art-making, which had begun to occupy a central place in his life. He still enjoys and plays music, but he almost never ventures out or receives visitors.
Last summer, however, during a research trip to Japan, I was invited by the artist and his family to visit them at their home. That day, his parents told me, their son was both nervous and excited to receive a visitor who was interested in his work. As Nishimura began to feel at ease, he explained that he often begins a new composition spontaneously, without a lot of preliminary planning, and that his subjects may be inspired by his interests — music, his cat or other animals, plant forms, or a sudden thought or visual impression.
Various rooms of the Nishimuras’ house were stocked with Issei’s stored artworks, including many picture-filled sketchbooks and boxes full of small, postcard-size ink drawings. From one box, the artist pulled out a remarkable suite of portraits of his uncles, aunts, and other relatives. “Are these accurate likenesses?” I asked his parents. “Yes!” the artist’s mother responded enthusiastically, adding, “They’re both caricatures and recognizable portraits at the same time.”
By contrast, many of the images to be found in the artist’s Cavin-Morris survey feature exaggeratedly distorted faces or bodies; these are the kinds of pictures that tend to fill his sketchbooks. In the drawing “Moonrise” (2018, ink on paperboard), Nishimura stretches out a woman’s neck like gooey taffy, topping it with a noseless, girlish head that resembles a balloon tethered to a long string. This peculiar nude’s breasts seem to dangle from her body like misplaced ornaments, and each of her hands resembles some kind of leafy growth.
In other drawings in ink on paper or paperboard, Nishimura obscures faces or body parts in thickets of dense, wiry lines, or he depicts mysterious, toothy creatures that appear to emerge from a common body or share a common tail. (Japanese viewers may recognize their inspiration in monsters from Godzilla stories.)
Nishimura’s paintings can be completely unpredictable from one to the next. In the current exhibition, bold palettes and abstract shapes that sometimes camouflage or unexpectedly transform themselves into more recognizable forms turn up in such images as “Untitled” (2013, acrylic and crayon on fabric, mounted on plywood), in which what appears to be a yellow fish with an open mouth makes its way horizontally across the composition, only to blend into what may be read as a human figure in profile, even as the artist throws in the outline of a front-facing body.
In “My Mother’s Permed Hair” (2013, acrylic on fabric, mounted on plywood), a voluminous, yellow-pink coif surrounds a distorted, abstracted face that would have made the Surrealists proud. In fact, Miyawaki told me, Nishimura made this painting one day right after his mother returned from a beauty parlor, where, for the first time in many years, she had had her hair permed, a change in appearance that shocked her son.
“Fear of Eye” (2013, acrylic on canvas), the largest painting on view, is also the exhibition’s most complex image. By e-mail, Miyawaki sent me several photos documenting this work’s evolution over time; through several different stages, the artist frequently — and often rather thoroughly — overpainted his composition until arriving at a final, bold image, in which a big, broad face with what appear to be four eyes stares out more eerily than menacingly at a viewer. Later, commenting on this picture, Nishimura explained to Miyawaki that he had been bullied as a child and that, even today, he feels a traumatic reaction when people look at him.
When I met the artist last year, he told me that he works feverishly on his drawings, sometimes filling several sketchbooks in a single day, and that he tends to work intensively for varying periods of time, with in-between lulls, during which he rests, enjoys his music, and develops new visual ideas.
But he can be impulsive, too, seizing his pens or paints to immediately capture something he has observed or an image gestating in his imagination, from lounging cats to mushrooms, lyrically abstracted females forms, and enigmatic, fractured faces.
In Japan today, difficult-to-categorize artworks like Nishimura’s can — and perhaps should — be appreciated in the wider context of expressionist and abstract art forms, of which Japanese modernists, from members of the postwar Gutai group to the multidisciplinary artist Tarō Okamoto (1911-1996), certainly have put forth their own distinctive offerings.
For now, Nishimura’s US debut opens the door a bit wider to contemporary developments in the field of so-called self-taught art in Asia, shaking up expectations about the character and appearance of the work of such remarkable autodidacts.
Nathaniel Mary Quinn is one of the best portrait painters working today and the competition is steep.
The outsize number of black artists now working in the portrait genre awakens the art world with vital new means of representation. It makes sense that artists who have been kept on the margins of the mainstream art world for centuries might emerge with the idea of visibility front and center. Without a definitive canonical art history of Black self-representation, there are fewer conventions for the work to adhere to. Much of this output feels urgent and compelling, either expanding the language of figure painting or, in the case of Nathaniel Mary Quinn, using collage-like compositions to address the dynamic clamor of contemporary life.
Nathaniel Mary Quinn (b. 1977) is a Brooklyn-based artist who grew up in Chicago.
On Instagram, Quinn’s images look like collages. In real life they also look like collages. But they aren’t. The viewer strains to translate the illusionistic mark making created with charcoal, pastel, oil stick, and gouache on paper. The result lies somewhere between human and machine made with his compositions running both hot and cold. Quinn withholds evidence of the hand, releasing the means of his trompe l’oeil trickery to viewers willing to lean in and decode the marks. The controlled surfaces, sourced from picture clippings, ooze and flow in cut-and-paste, smeary amalgamations. One senses Quinn’s Chicago origins in noticing homologies with Ed Paschke’s irradiated, blurred figures and the general free-wheeling cultural appropriation of the Imagist group. From Dadaist collage to Romare Bearden and African American quilts, Quinn joins those who believe that reality might best be recognized by its disjunctions, patchwork sensations, and complex social strata, rather than by insistent, single-point perspectives.
Quinn’s subjects are based on memories of people he has known. His mother, Mary, appears in “Bring Yo’ Big Teeth Ass Here!,” (2017), with a pig nose and square, squat body, staring out of the picture. Quinn notes that this is a tribute to her love of pork hocks and ears. Mary, who was influential and supportive, died when Quinn was 15 and living away at a boarding school. He subsequently adopted her name. “My mother had never had an education, so this meant she would have her name on every diploma I received,” said Quinn in a 2018 British Vogue article. Her name appears on his 2000 BFA degree from Wabash College, Indiana and his 2002 MFA degree from New York University. His parents did not read or write and no one else in his family had ever attended college.
Other characters are recollected from the neighborhood of his youth, the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago, built in 1962 to be the largest public housing development in the country with 28 buildings and more than 4,000 units. Gangs and drug dealers, including Quinn’s four brothers who had dropped out of school, ruled the terrain. One of the strongest paintings in the show, “Junebug,” (2015), is a portrait of Quinn’s uncle, a drug dealer. “He was a walking Christmas tree,” Quinn recalled. “He had nice clothes, gold chains.” Quinn only met him once because his mother tried to avoid men like him having any influence on her son. The portrait is a gleaming, joyous celebration of Junebug’s self-styled swagger against a gentle, star-flecked gray background. Multiple, pieced-together bits of eyes, ears, patterns and textures form a formal head and shoulders view held together by a large gold nose ring that is both slick and outrageous. One edge of the image’s border is ragged to interrupt the otherwise smooth, round-cornered perfection of the piece. If the Dutch Baroque artist Frans Hals walked into the room, I imagine he would fall to his knees in admiration of where Quinn has taken the notion of “likeness”: a blend of artifice and recollection. Human beings are compilations of inherited and adopted identities, of place and circumstance, luck and genetics, real messes of the vulnerable and volatile percolating within societal restraints. Quinn gets this down on paper. [“Discord in perfect harmony,”] is how one curator aptly described his style. What simmers under the human surface becomes the surface in Quinn’s work. The sensations are unsorted but adhere with compassion.
Quinn’s process begins with a vision: “maybe from the universe or from God,” he says in an interview published in the exhibition catalog. “I have a visceral, physical response to each vision, which means that I want to create it.” He then looks to magazines and the internet for source material. He may find a mouth or an eye and work from there. When he starts to draw he creates one segment of the composition and then covers it with paper before he moves to the next section. This technique ensures more pronounced seams and jagged transitions. He doesn’t want the compositions to fully settle. A controlled chaos of shape and pattern keeps them stirring. He tries to protect his process, he says, “from the pollution of my mind,” meaning he doesn’t want logic or predictability to interrupt. There are no preliminary sketches.
Charles was the brother who convinced his mom that Quinn’s pencil drawings on their apartment walls, made when he was five years old, were actually good. His mom encouraged his artwork after that. Eventually a teacher helped him obtain a scholarship to a private high school in Indiana. One month after moving there, his mother died. When he later returned home for Thanksgiving, the family apartment had been abandoned. He never saw his father and brothers again until Charles recently resurfaced after hearing Nathaniel on the radio. That all of Quinn’s portraits are composites that emerge through intuition and chance encounters with images that trigger recollections makes sense.