NEW LONDON — For contemporary art lovers, discovery of emerging artists is a great and serious pleasure.
That’s why it’s worth a look at a show of 16 artists deemed important to collect by a number of art critics and curators: The second annual “Art for Your Collection” at the Catherine Fosnot Gallery and Art Center at 165 State Street running through Jan. 28.
“We ask [critics], ‘Who’s on your radar? Who do you think are important artists right now and that you’d say are important artists to keep your eye on — and who you think might be good investments?’” said gallery owner Catherine Fosnot said.
Once a year, Fosnot compiles a list of critic-recommended artists and invites them to submit work for review and then she curates the show. It’s a combination of artists that she describes as ‘on the cusp.”
Below are a few highlights from the show:
A series of five collages depicts parts of mountains, lakes, rivers, continents that appear to be shifting and moving — the topography of the earth is colliding, crumbling and sliding, possibly due to climate change.
From the side of each wooden frame, a rock sticks out, as though emerging from deep inside the piece, pushed by natural forces beyond human control. The rock disrupts the expected two-dimensionality and safety of the rectangular frame and breaks into the viewer’s three-dimensional world, perhaps acting as an augury of destruction ahead.
The artists, Bicheng Liang and Yixuan Shao, who refer to themselves Alchemyverse, wrote that they “investigate our relationship to scale and meaning through processed-based interactions with territories and materials” and work with “narratives from personal memory, archeology and geology.” Their exploration of materials including, in this series, minerals, including salt crystals, petrified wood, limestones, igneous rocks, and metamorphic rocks.
In “Fleeting Anchors (05),” Alchemyverse uses sound to break into the fourth dimension with a soundtrack of what could be gravel and rocks rumbling, rolling and smashing. The soundtrack adds a level of uncertainty — and almost terror — to the viewing experience, as tectonic plates deep in the earth appear to shift, causing mountains collapse and rivers to flood. It is a vision of the earth reassembling itself without permission or recognition of mankind.
Alchemyverse was recommended by art critic Phong Bui, the publisher and artistic director of The Brooklyn Rail, an arts, culture, and politics journal.
Handmade wooden boxes that can be flipped, folded and displayed in multiple ways are the focus of Kuwayama’s work in this show. Her pieces, which transform between the categories of painting to sculpture, reflect her exploration of spatial relationships.
“Where does beauty exist?” she asks herself, as well as questions about the relationships between inner and outer, what is hidden and what is revealed.
“I found while working, that the Anishinaabe word for love, zaagi, also refers to openings. We can think of all the ways in which we can open in love and all the ways in which love opens us. Art for me is an opening,” she wrote.
Kuwayama, who lives and works in New York City, was recommended by critic Lilly Wei, a New York- based independent curator.
In his series of paintings entitled “Black Face,” Steed began with questions that started with the tragic death of his niece from the coronavirus delta variant.
“My niece did not believe in the vaccine and was not vaccinated. She believed in some of the conspiracy theories,” he wrote, “Why even in 2021 do African Americans still believe the Government wants to do bad things to the community or that they still don’t care about the black community when it comes to medicine?”
Steed’s work reflects his thought process that “maybe this idea of Black Face is bigger than we think.” In his statement, Steed said he has started to see Black Face as a many forms of thinking, behaving and treating oneself and others — including, for example, his niece’s belief in conspiracy theories that kept her niece from being vaccinated, and extending to violence within the Black community.
“I see Black Face as a burden, as a person that brainwashes the Black Community and does not allow us to move forward but keeps us trapped, hiding, not thinking that we can be a part of society,” he wrote.
A series of small, richly colored paintings worked as horizontal lines on paper greets visitors upon entry to the gallery. These are the “Riz” series by Joanne Mattera, an artist, writer and curator who divides her time between New York City and Massachusetts.
“‘Riz’ is so titled because I’m working with horizontal bands of color. These paintings are oil on handmade paper, each just over 14 x 14 inches. There is no ‘meaning’ here, just a chance to dive visually into deep, rich, color,” she wrote in a statement.
She refers to her aesthetic as “lush minimalism.” In each piece she juxtaposes strands of color and lets them dialogue with one another.
Also in the show are pieces from her Silk Road color field series done in encaustic — layers of translucent wax paint — that were initially inspired by the iridescence of silk and later evolved into an exploration of texture, surface and color.
“My intention is to enliven the color field while at the same time creating a visual spark that jumps the eye from painting to painting,” Mattera wrote.
Recognizable natural elements — trees, rocks, plants, sky, water — populate Whittaker-Doe’s landscapes. But, within the painting frame, each element occupies its own space and plane, almost as if they were created at time periods with separate tools and techniques. Whittaker-Doe plays with scale, perspective, color and levels of detail. As a result, nature’s elements collide with each other even as they coexist, producing a kind of roaring energy.
In her statement, the artist said her paintings are derived from experience in the natural landscape.
“Within the inquisitive act of painting, these experiences prompt an exploration of self amid the sometimes-tumultuous relationships depicted between air, water, and land. The primal entanglement of a struggling underbrush, a muddy and rocky earth, with or without a seasonal flower in the landforms takes on as much importance as any ‘scene’ alluded to. Metaphors are found in the desire for discovery of an access to these landforms in painting,” she wrote.
Whittaker-Doe lives and works in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Delaware County, N.Y. She was recommended by critic Dominique Nahas, an independent art critic and curator.
Other artists included in the show are: Brandon Anschultz, Charity Lynn Baker, Lisa Corinne Davis, Martin Dull, Fred Gutzeit, Stephen Lack, Jazzmen Lee-Johnson, Judith Modrak, Donna Moylan, Jordan Seaberry and Gina Werfel.
The critics who recommended artists included Eleanor Heartney, Dominic Molon, Dominique Nahas, Sur Rodney (Sur) and Anonymous.