5 Emerging Artists to Watch at The Armory Show

March 05, 2016 0 Comments

Over 200 galleries from 36 countries having flocked to New York this week for the 22nd edition of The Armory Show. And between Armory Presents, the fair’s section devoted to galleries less than 10 years old, and Armory Focus, this year presenting contemporary art from Africa and the African Diaspora, the fair presents a key opportunity to discover some of the most exciting emerging artists from across the globe. To help you navigate the aisles, we boiled it down to 5 newcomers gaining traction at The Armory Show this year, who are ripe for picking.


Raphael Hefti

B. 1978 in Biel, Switzerland. Lives and works in London and Zurich.

Hefti may well be the only artist at the fair who shares his medium with firebreathers. To create the half-dozen, nearly six-foot-tall photograms that line the walls of RaebervonStenglin’s booth (priced at 18,000 CHF plus framing), the Swiss artist sprinkles spores from Lycopodium moss—a favorite of fire-spitters—onto light sensitive paper. “It burns slowly, with low heat,” says co-director Matthias von Stenglin, who explains that Hefti drops photo paper on the floor of the darkroom, dusts it with powder, and ignites a fire. “The flame develops the photography,” he notes. “It’s like a photogram where the fire is the lightsource.”


Ryan Mrozowski

B. 1981 in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Thirtysomething painter Mrozowski had a momentous 2015—including group exhibitions with Marianne Boesky and Salon 94, and his first solo exhibition with On Stellar Rays, the New York-based gallery who brought his work to this year’s Armory Show. A deeply hued painting of a flattened, abstracted orange grove—the artist’s largest work to date—is a highlight of the fair. “He’s playing with optics and perception and pattern; there’s a lot of visual games in his work,” says owner and director Candice Madey. “We just picked it up yesterday from his studio in Bushwick,” she adds, noting that just hours into the VIP preview, the painting, Untitled (Orange) (2016), had sold to a private collection in New York for $18,000.


Turiya Magadlela

B. 1978 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Lives and works in Soweto, South Africa.

Stitched-together pantyhose and overalls sourced from South African prisons are among the charged fabrics 38-year-old Magadlela calls on for her abstract, often minimal compositions. “She uses culturally and socially loaded materials,” says owner and director Jonathan Garnham, motioning toward the pantyhose-covered canvases. The solo booth is Magadlela’s first showing in the U.S., and works are priced at $4,000 per canvas. (Collectors are encouraged to purchase them as a diptych or triptych.) “The panyhose speak of being a woman, and the violence inflicted on women in her home country,” Garnham adds. Earlier works made with bedding pulled from South African prisons, titled after incarcerated black leaders throughout history, incorporate “keffer sheet,” a fabric named for the derogatory term for a black person used in South Africa during apartheid. And according to Garnham, these works have struck a chord with American collectors.


Mario Pfeifer

B. 1981 in Dresden, Germany. Lives and works in Berlin and New York.

Enter the fair, walk straight to Armory Presents, and park yourself before Pfeifer’s two-channel video installation, #blacktivist (2015), at Berlin Gallery KOW. (You can thank me later.) The German artist is known for producing projects that are culturally relevant to their locales, and following an invitation to an artist’s residency with MINI/Goethe-Institut, he approached local Brooklyn rap group Flatbush ZOMBIES to collaborate on a music video. Expect scenes from outer space, floating heads, gold-front grills, and Obama. The video quickly received over two million views when it was released on YouTube. And at the fair, it is juxtaposed with documentation of an open-sourced 3D-printed gun workshop in Austin, Texas. “You see different perspectives inside of America; Brooklyn versus Texas” says the gallery’s Nikolaus Oberhuber of the work, priced at $15,000 in an edition of 10, one of which had quickly sold to a private collection in Europe. “You have this company in Texas that argues for more freedom under the second amendment,” he adds, but meanwhile, the #blacktivist video, with all the conventions of a traditional music video, is a startling exploration of police brutality and the right to self defense.


Sebastián Fierro

B. 1988 in Bogotá, Colombia.

In January, 28-year-old Colombian artist Fierro celebrated his MFA graduation from Hunter College—and this week, an oil painting from his thesis show (Cosmograma, 2015, priced at $10,000) is the centerpiece of Instituto de Visión’s booth. “We flew in January to see the show,” notes executive director Omayra Alvarado. (Since then, of four pieces from his MFA show, the gallery has already sold two.) “We send pictures and collectors are like I want this today—now.” Though Fierro got his start painting landscapes, during his masters program he transitioned into what Alvarado calls “psychological landscapes—strange spaces where you don’t know whether you’re inside or outside,” evidenced by Cosmograma in which an interior seamlessly fuses with outer space.

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