For Its Major Post-Pandemic Triennial, the New Museum Has Invited 40 Rising Artists to Explore the Theme of Persistence

The exhibition, titled “Soft Water Hard Stone,” opens in October.

Still from Kate Cooper's video, Symptom Machine (2017). Courtesy of the artist.
Still from Kate Cooper's video, Symptom Machine (2017). Courtesy of the artist.

The 2021 New Museum triennial—the fifth iteration of its signature exhibition of emerging artists—has been in the works since long before the pandemic. But its overarching theme, of tenacity in the face of hardship, will likely feel more relevant than ever when the show opens this fall, well over a year into the pandemic.

The museum announced today that the exhibition, co-organized by Margot Norton, a curator at the New Museum, and Jamillah James, senior curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, is titled “Soft Water Hard Stone.” The name comes from a Brazilian proverb: Água mole em pedra dura, tanto bate até que fura (“Soft water on hard stone hits until it bores a hole”).

For the curators, it’s a metaphor for persistence: Even the most inexorable of materials change with time and energy. 

The 40 artists included in the show—a group that represents five continents and nearly all media—the proverb can, occasionally, be read more literally. The transfiguration of discordant materials and ideas will constitute a prominent theme in the exhibition, as will the use of outmoded models and artistic traditions.

Their works exalt states of transformation, calling attention to the malleability of structures, porous and unstable surfaces, and the fluid and adaptable potential of both technological and organic media,” a statement on the triennial reads. 

Ambera Wellmann, <i>UnTurning</i> (2019). Courtesy of the artist and KTZ gallery, Berlin.

Ambera Wellmann, UnTurning (2019). Courtesy of the artist and KTZ gallery, Berlin.

Though all of the artists were born after 1975, the curators say they didn’t look to birth dates for their definition of “emerging artists.”

“We decided that, instead of age, our parameter would be based on exposure,” James tells Artnet News, “so that artists we invited that had not yet had a major solo exhibition in a U.S. museum.” 

Norton and James began research for the Triennial in the summer 2018, logging nearly two year’s worth of travel and in-person studio visits before the pandemic necessitated some improvisation. “When we scheduled our travel, we were interested in visiting locations where it made a difference to be there physically, and in areas where artists are often underrepresented in international exhibitions,” James says, pointing to places such as North Africa, South Asia, and Eastern Europe.

Since then, the curators have “become quite accustomed to the Zoom studio visit, to say the least.” Norton says. “While there is a huge disadvantage to not seeing work in person, we actually found it to be quite efficient to continue our research remotely, particularly as we honed in on the show’s theme, and for the artists whose works we have had the opportunity to see in person prior.” 

Brandon Ndife, <i>Modern Dilemma</i> (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Bureau, New York.

Brandon Ndife, Modern Dilemma (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Bureau, New York.

“Soft Water Hard Stone,” is set to run from October 27, 2021 to January 23, 2022 at the New Museum. See the full list of participating artists below.

  • Haig Aivazian (b. 1980 Beirut, Lebanon; lives and works in Beirut, Lebanon)
  • Evgeny Antufiev (b. 1986 Kyzyl, Russia; lives and works in Moscow, Russia)
  • Alex Ayed (b. 1989 Strasbourg, France; lives and works in Brussels, Belgium, and Tunis, Tunisia)
  • Nadia Belerique (b. 1982 Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; lives and works in Toronto, Canada)
  • Hera Büyüktaşcıyan (b. 1984 Istanbul, Turkey; lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey) 
  • Tomás Díaz Cedeño (b. 1983 Mexico City, Mexico; lives and works in Mexico City, Mexico) 
  • Gabriel Chaile (b. 1985 San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina; lives and works in Lisbon, Portugal)
  • Gaëlle Choisne (b. 1985 Cherbourg, France; lives and works in Paris, France)
  • Krista Clark (b. 1975 Burlington, VT, United States; lives and works in Atlanta, GA, United States) 
  • Kate Cooper (b. 1984, Liverpool, United Kingdom; lives and works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands) 
  • Cynthia Daignault (b. 1978 Baltimore, MD, United States; lives and works in Baltimore, MD, United States) 
  • Jes Fan (b. 1990 Toronto, Canada; lives and works in New York, NY, United States and Hong Kong)
  • Goutam Ghosh (b. 1979 Nabadwip, India; lives and works in Kolkata, India) 
  • Harry Gould Harvey IV (b. 1991 Fall River, MA, United States; lives and works in Fall River, MA, United States) 
  • Clara Ianni (b. 1987 São Paolo, Brazil; lives and works in São Paolo, Brazil)
  • Kahlil Robert Irving (b. 1992 San Diego, CA, United States; lives and works in St. Louis, MO, United States) 
  • Arturo Kameya (b. 1984 Lima, Peru; lives and works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands) 
  • Laurie Kang (b. 1985 Toronto, Canada; lives and works in Toronto, Canada)  
  • Bronwyn Katz (b. 1993 Kimberly, South Africa; lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa) 
  • Ann Greene Kelly (b. 1988 New York, NY, United States; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA, United States)
  • Kang Seung Lee (b. 1978 Seoul, South Korea; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA, United States) 
  • Amy Lien and Enzo Camacho (b. 1987 Dallas, TX, United States; lives and works in New York, NY, United States) and (b. 1985 Manila, Philippines; lives and works in Berlin, Germany) 
  • Tanya Lukin Linklater (Alutiiq) (b. 1976 Kodiak, AK, United States; lives and works in North Bay, Ontario, Canada)
  • Angelika Loderer (b. 1984 Feldbach, Austria; lives and works in Vienna, Austria)
  • Sandra Mujinga (b. 1989 Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo; lives and works in Oslo, Norway and Berlin, Germany)
  • Gabriela Mureb (b. 1985 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
  • Brandon Ndife (b. 1991 Hammond, IN, United States; lives and works in Brooklyn, NY, United States)
  • Erin Jane Nelson (b. 1989 Neenah, WI, United States; lives and works in Atlanta, GA, United States) 
  • Jeneen Frei Njootli (Vuntut Gwitchin) (b. 1988 Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada; lives and works in Vancouver, Canada)
  • Ima-Abasi Okon (b. 1981 London, United Kingdom; lives and works in London, United Kingdom and Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
  • Christina Pataialii (b. 1988 Auckland, New Zealand; lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand)
  • Thao Nguyen Phan (b. 1987 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
  • Nickola Pottinger (b. 1986 Kingston, Jamaica; lives and works in New York, NY, United States)
  • Rose Salane (b. 1992 New York, NY, United States; lives and works in New York, NY, United States)
  • Blair Saxon-Hill (b. 1979 Eugene, OR, United States; lives and works in Portland, OR, United States)
  • Samara Scott (b. 1984 London, United Kingdom; lives and works in London, United Kingdom)
  • Amalie Smith (b. 1985 Copenhagen, Denmark; lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark)
  • Iris Touliatou (b. 1981 Athens, Greece; lives and works in Athens, Greece) 
  • Ambera Wellmann (b. 1982 Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, Canada; lives and works in New York, NY, United States)
  • Yu Ji (b. 1985 Shanghai, China; lives and works in Shanghai, China)

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