9 Emerging Los Angeles Artists to Watch in 2019
Here are some of the breakout stars poised to make a splash in the year to come.
Los Angeles is a multi-verse. There are countless routes to take, places to go, and artists to watch, which can make the entire experience of visiting or living in the city a little overwhelming.
Now that you’ve figured out the most important spots to visits—if you haven’t yet, check out our guide—you should know which artists to watch. So we checked in with the nine most exciting art-makers in Los Angeles, who together represent a city that has no single identity. Some are political and sharp, others abstract and messy. Some make paintings or sculptures, others make video or internet art. Others use everything available to them, including the city’s famous light sources. But most of all, they reflect the complex culture of a city that is so often misconstrued as not having one.
Who: Halsey had a monster year in 2018. The artist, who was born and raised in LA, landed a solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art, was included in the 2018 Made in L.A. Biennial at the Hammer Museum, and won the $100,000 Mohn Award.
What to Know: “we still here, there,” Halsey’s show at MOCA, was an immersive architectural maze with nods to her birthplace of South Central LA, combining everything from signage marketing black-owned businesses, to Black Panther memorabilia, to ephemera associated with jazz and funk music. At the Hammer, Halsey presented “The Crenshaw District Hieroglyph Project (Prototype Architecture),” a plywood-and-gypsum temple that mixed graffiti, portraits of her family, friends, and Marcus Garvey, images of Sphinxes and hieroglyphs, and a picture of Egyptian queen Nefertiti eith an Egyptian-style architectural monument.
Look Out For: Last we checked, Halsey had raised over $18,000 on Kickstarter to turn “The Crenshaw District Hieroglyph Project” into a public artwork in South Central LA. She also signed with David Kordansky Gallery in November, so we expect a show there soon.
Who: The Mozambique-born, Los Angeles-based painter has been stirring things up lately. The Pérez Art Museum Miami purchased one of her works using money from the New Art Dealers Alliance Acquisition Fund in December 2018, and she has solo shows at the Nina Johnson gallery in Miami and the OFR Bookshop in Paris. She was also written-up in a recent article in Vogue. Among her friends are fashion designer Maryam Nassir Zadeh, artist-musician Kilo Kish, and Lana Del Rey’s photographer sister, Chuck Grant.
What to Know: Namoda describes her paintings as “Lusotropical,” which refers to the 20th-century Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre’s theory that, because Portugal is a warmer place, the Portuguese were more humane colonizers (Mozambique was a Portuguese colony for nearly 500 years). The acrylic and oil paintings are colorful and emotionally intimate scenes of everyday life, loosely rendered, in the manner of Alice Neel.
Look Out For: Namoda will present her next LA show, “The Day a Monkey’s Destined to Die All Trees Become Slippery,” in March at Ghebaly Gallery.
Who: Last year, Simphiwe Ndzube had exhibitions all over the world: in Oaxaca; at the Frans Hals Museum in Amsterdam; the CC Foundation in Shanghai; and at Harper’s Books in East Hampton, New York, plus a group show at Nicodim Gallery in Los Angeles.
What to Know: Born in Cape Town in 1990, Ndzube often addresses life in the country after Apartheid, but with a surreal narrative structure. His pieces are large-scale, mixed-media collages, featuring grotesque, headless figures in banal clothes sprouting arms, light bulbs, and traffic cones out of their necks while slumping around colorfully abstract dreamscapes. Often, the figures become three-dimensional and the cones and clothes are made from found objects. His works go for around $8,000–$42,000.
Who: The Detroit-born artist and writer has been an LA staple since getting his MFA from the University of Southern California’s Roski School of Fine Arts in 2013. In the past year, he’s had shows at the Crisp-Ellert Museum in St. Augustine, Florida; at The Kitchen in New York; at the KMAC Museum in Louisville, Kentucky; and at Ballroom Marfa (through February 18).
What to Know: Huffman is never shy to use humor and contemporary concepts. Bridging a multitude disciplines—performance, video, photography, and text-based work—he often addresses glitches in our collective memories of, and language about, race. His works, like the performance “Defending Kanye West” (2017), which was presented at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, are incisive, and he’s also written three books of poetry.
Look Out For: He has an upcoming show at Anat Egbi in Los Angeles later this year.
Who: With her late husband, artist Noah Davis, sculptor Karon Davis is the co-founder of the Underground Museum in Los Angeles, which puts on incredible shows in conjunction with the Museum of Contemporary Art. Now based in Ojai, California, Davis had a banner year in 2018. One of her works was acquired by the Brooklyn Museum, she had a solo exhibition at Wilding Cran Gallery in Los Angeles, and she was included in group shows at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery and the UTA Artist Space.
What to Know: Her show at Wilding Cran was populated by her signature, all-white plaster figures, this time in states of duress during climate disasters. Davis began to address displacement and evacuation after the she narrowly escaped the Thomas Fire that destroyed most of Ojai. Beth Rudin DeWoody is a major collector of her work.
Look Out For: Davis has been selected to present in Frieze Projects during the Los Angeles fair, from February 14–17.
Who: This young artist, critic, and assistant curator at Rhizome got heaps of attention for her work Dead Zone, a branch of a cotton plant put underneath bell jar. That led to a well-received solo show, “lonesome crowded west,” at Château Shatto gallery in Los Angeles last year, followed by an exhibition at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. She also co-directs the artist-run space As It Stands LA.
What to Know: Dean’s work deals with black culture past and present, in sometimes abstract, sometimes head-on ways. Using a mix of sculpture, painting, video, and text-based works—or whatever gets her point across—Dean unearths personal and political histories and brings them into the present.
Look Out For: She has an upcoming exhibition at Chapter NY gallery from March through May 2019.
Who: Fujita stated his career in LA with graffiti crews before finding success in galleries. Last year, he was included in group shows at L.A. Louver; the Chinese American Museum; an exhibition titled “Beyond the Streets” at Werkartz; and the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.
What to Know: Fujita uses his personal history (his parents are Japanese) and the surroundings of his youth to equal effect. He mixes graffiti-style lettering with anime, ukiyo-e woodblock prints, and partitioned screens—as well as subjects such Samurai, Geishas, and Japanese oni demons, dragons, cranes—to make his artwork. His drawings sell from about $3,500, while paintings go up to $200,000.
Look Out For: Fujita will present a solo exhibit in L.A. Louver’s booth at Frieze Los Angeles.
Who: This installation and video artist has a handful of group shows and film screenings under her belt, but it wasn’t until this year that her debut solo show opened at Maccarone Gallery in Los Angeles (through March 2). Her work has been collected by Miami mega-collectors Don and Mera Rubell.
What to Know: Born in Atlanta, but a longtime LA resident, Hall’s deliciously perverse and ambitiously complex environments have plenty of phallic, yonic, and anal imagery. The videos are no less wild. Her works run from $5,000–$15,000.
Who: Seffa Klein—granddaughter of Yves Klein—had a breakout year in 2018, showing work at there-there, Ochi Projects, ArtMovement Los Angeles, and the Regime de Fleurs Atelier.
What to Know: Klein’s “Fire Blanket” paintings shimmer with literal sparkles, but they do so in an incredibly sincere way. Those works, along with her “SK Bricks” series (which resemble large LEGO blocks), are garnering attention around Los Angeles.
Look Out For: Klein will have work with Louise Alexander Gallery at the Art Los Angeles Contemporary art fair.
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