At first glance, Kathy Ager’s richly coloured paintings could be confused for a 17th-century Baroque still-life. A closer look reveals modern-day objects – Air Jordan sneakers, Supreme baseball bat, discarded Budweiser cans. It’s this jarring juxtaposition that has thrust Ager, 41, into the international spotlight. The Vancouver-based artist – who spent nearly a decade in Amsterdam honing her craft – has collaborated with the likes of Nike and Polo Ralph Lauren, while her striking work has appeared on gallery walls from Los Angeles to Honolulu. We caught up with Ager to dish on sneaker design, her big break and what’s next for this burgeoning talent.
You had a successful career as a graphic designer before transitioning to painting full-time. How’d that come about?
I was painting in my spare time – on weekends and in the evenings. I went to design school here in Vancouver and the program included illustration, too. We learned a lot of classical techniques – acrylic, watercolour, oil. I had made a couple of paintings in school. Then, while living in Amsterdam, I got sick and needed to entertain myself because I was stuck at home, recovering. It felt very lonely and isolating. One day I painted a still life from a photo I had seen. I liked how it could tell a story with objects. So I started building my own still lifes with objects around my home. Shortly after, my big break came: I got picked up by a huge gallery in LA (Thinkspace Gallery).
I imagine that was a dream come true.
I remember exactly where I was when it happened. I had just gone to visit a friend in Lisbon and was sitting on a bench, waiting for the bus. I glanced at my phone and wondered, ‘Why am I getting all of these followers, all of a sudden?’ I only had 200 or 300 followers at the time, then thousands more in the span of a couple hours. I follow a bunch of art and design blogs, many of which welcome submissions. I had only made five or six paintings at the time, but I submitted them to a blog called Booooooom, who posted them on Instagram. That’s where all the followers came from. Then I saw a message from Thinkspace Gallery asking if I’d like to work with them. I thought, ‘Are you kidding me?’ That was my main goal, my end game.
How did it feel to open that DM?
It gave me a lot of anxiety. This is what I had wanted but then I thought, ‘Okay, now I actually have to produce.’ I went back to Amsterdam and freaked out for a couple of weeks. I remember going over to a friend’s house and just laying on her couch, wrapped up in a blanket, like a walrus on a beach.
Your paintings stand out because they are clearly Baroque-inspired, and yet you combine animal corpses and still-life with pop-culture elements, such as the Nike logo or a Tyler, the Creator album. How did you come up with this concept?
My paintings represent different people in my life, whether it’s a book that reminds me of them or shoes they wore. I put a pair of Nike sneakers in one of my paintings for this exact reason and the response was incredible. Also, when you look at these paintings from the 1600s, there are objects that we’d call antiques but at the time they were very modern things. In 500 years, these Nikes will be considered old-fashioned.
At the moment, however, sneakers are all the rage. What attracts you to sneaker design?
I have always loved sneakers. My friends would make fun of me because I would look at a guy’s shoes before I checked out his face – it just tells me so much about a person. I pay attention to my own shoes in the same way. Nike really has a hold on me. I’ll wear other brands, such as Adidas and New Balance, but there’s something about Nike’s graphics and colours that speak to me. Believe it or not, I don’t own too many; I get my fill from painting them. My favourite are my Nike Dunks; there’s a simplicity to them yet they have these amazing graphic elements.
It must have been exciting to collaborate with Nike.
Yes! They contacted me through Instagram. I created a painting, which they printed on a sweatshirt. This happened within the first couple of years of being a full-time painter. It’s been wild.
Your paintings feel dramatic with lots of deep colour and dark shadows, often in the form of nature. Why does nature play such a big role in your work and how does it complement brand expression?
Life is intense. And so I try to create images that are both emotional and dramatic but that have a bit of a twist to them. There’s this one painting of a male marble bust wearing a balaclava – it feels menacing – and then the title [The Look Of Love] flips the narrative. My paintings are very personal in that sense. They’re capturing snippets of my life and yet I’m trying to create a kind of message in a bottle, in a way. People can interpret them however they want but I’m hoping they’ll have an emotional response; that’s what I like about combining these natural, beautiful elements of flowers and fruit with designed objects like sneakers and beer cans. They have a completely different meaning to me than to others, and I love that.
Can you tell me a bit about your process?
Sometimes I get an idea in my head and I’ll search for a particular object to paint. I was on the hunt for a coyote of some sort when I got a phone call from my mom. She was out on her daily speed walk with my aunt and she said, ‘Kathy, we got this [dead] coyote, let me send you a picture.’ My uncle drove up in his red pickup, threw in the coyote and put it in the shade (I remember it was during a summer heatwave). I came over with gloves and got my mom to hold it the position I wanted, and I took some pictures. Then I gave it a burial. My uncle will actually report if he sees anything dead around the property. Friends, too. One was working on a mural on an apartment building and found a goldfinch that had hit a window and fallen to the ground. She sent me a message: ‘You want this?’ I’ll use it for paintings and then put it back into my freezer. People know I’m on the lookout.
What’s next for you?
I have some skateboards coming out with a big brand called Real Skateboards, who’ll be featuring some of my paintings on their pro boards – some of them are pretty huge! I also have a group show coming up in January called 100 Amigos, where 100 local [Vancouver] artists are invited to create a 12×12″ piece of art. It’s curated by Douglas Coupland, Drew Young and Pablo Zamudio. I have to say, it’s been so nice to finally feel part of a local scene.
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7 Leading Curators Predict the Defining Art Trends of 2023 – Artsy
Jan 30, 2023 11:57PM
In 2022, we witnessed a rise in neo-surrealist art, NFTs, and textile-based art practices. These were trends that were bubbling to the surface by the end of 2021, but weren’t fully realized until the spring of the following year. Now, many other styles are emerging as key genres that may have their moment this year.
Artsy spoke to seven leading curators who lent their expertise and shared their insights on which styles and themes may newly emerge or continue to garner attention in 2023. Many anticipate that the sociopolitical climate will continue to inform artists’ practices, with some predicting a rise in more provocative art that critiques religion and systemic oppression.
Other curators are looking to Latin American new media practices, and are excited by how artists like Castiel Vitorino Brasileiro and Xandra Ibarra use video and installation to create immersive environments that challenge the separation between the screen and the body. Meanwhile, others are intrigued by the possibilities and questions that AI will continue to raise in relation to authorship in the art world.
All the curators expressed an overall interest in artists who push the limits of their given medium, and continue to expand upon their practices in innovative ways. Overall, there is excitement and hopeful promise that 2023 will bring about a year of artistic risks.
Independent Curator; Co-Founder, Artnoir
Portrait of Larry Ossei-Mensah by Aaron Ramsey. Courtesy of Larry Ossei-Mensah.
Larry Ossei-Mensah predicts that abstraction by artists of color will become even more prominent in 2023. The genre, Ossei-Mensah believes, is essential to shifting the public’s belief that artists of color should only make representational work that is immediately legible. As an example, he pointed to the divisive reaction towards Hank Willis Thomas’s recently unveiled public sculpture The Embrace (2022). Ossei-Mensah also expects that abstract masters like Mo Booker, Raymond Saunders, Howardena Pindell, Emma Amos, Atta Kwami, and Barbara Chase Riboud will receive overdue recognition in 2023 as more institutions reexamine their bodies of work in relation to the younger generation they’ve inspired.
Ossei-Mensah anticipates that criticism by writers of color, specifically those who engage with abstract art’s relationship to cultural practice, will be particularly impactful on the art world. He cited the work of Hilton Als, Robin Givhan, Folsade Ologundudu, and Doreen St. Felix as ones to watch. Additionally, he listed the 2023 solo exhibitions of artists Chase Hall, Guadalupe Maravilla, Ming Smith, Tomashi Jackson, Frank Stewart, Amoako Boafo, Kennedy Yanko, and Anoushka Mirchandani as indicative of what’s to come this year.
Hans Ulrich Obrist
Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries
Portrait of Hans Ulrich Obrist by Andrew Quinn. © Andrew Quinn.
Hans Ulrich Obrist is looking towards the work of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx artists who are rethinking notions of ownership, land, and the body in relation to futurity. He is particularly excited by immersive and interactive new media art, like video games. As he explained, “Video games are to the 21st century what movies were to the 20th century, and novels to the 19th century. Today, it’s much easier for artists to develop their gaming environments.”
Obrist referenced the work of Gabriel Massan at the Serpentine Galleries as a key example of an artist who is “uncovering new meanings on video games and phenomenology…that invites players to activate a fantastical and disorienting world populated with Massan’s digital sculptures, bespoke animation, films, camerawork, and sound developed by his collaborators,” he said. Obrist situates Massan within an incredible generation of artists from Brazil, including Jota Mombaça and Ventura Profana, who use technology to reexamine futurity and a sense of place while in dialogue with decolonial thought and practice.
Adrián Villa Rojas, Yinka Shonibare, and Otobong Nkanga, as Obrist noted, are similarly starting transnational dialogues that imagine a new future for us all. “As artist Ian Cheng often told me, at the heart of his art is a desire to understand what a world is,” Obrist said. “Now more than ever, the dream is to be able to possess the agency to create new worlds.”
Curator, New Museum
Portrait of Vivian Crockett by Ciara Elle Bryant. Courtesy of the New Museum.
Vivian Crockett is fascinated by what will emerge in the fields of new media art, film, and photography, particularly by artists of color from Latin America. In 2022, more opportunities arose for critical reflection on Latin American art and artists, as evident at the Whitney Biennial “Quiet as It’s Kept,” and the Focus and Platform sections of The Armory Show. This will likely continue through 2024 as Adriano Pedrosa mounts the 60th edition of the Venice Biennale’s international exhibition, becoming the first Latin American curator in its 122-year history.
When approaching Latin American art, Crockett emphasized that an understanding of the continent’s political landscapes is crucial. “There is an increased acknowledgement of white supremacist logic affecting Latin American countries, both historically and in the present moment, resulting in more explicit conversations around race, class, and Indigenous struggles for autonomy,” she said.
In terms of the media art that is attracting her interest, Crockett is looking forward to the transnational conversations that the Sharjah Biennial and São Paulo Bienal will provoke. Stateside, she is excited by the major video and media exhibitions taking place at MoMA and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth later this year, as well as Isaac Julien’s survey at Tate Britain and Ja’Tovia Gary’s solo show at Paula Cooper Gallery.
Curator, Bronx Museum
Portrait of Eileen Jung. Courtesy of the Bronx Museum.
Eileen Jung predicts that land art, Indigeneity, and immersive art practices will take center stage in 2023. In particular, she pointed to artists who use conceptual art to navigate history and memory, including Firelei Báez, Chloë Bass, Maria Berrio, Andrea Chung, Joana Choumali, Sean Desiree, Abigail DeVille, Anaïs Duplan, Scherezade García, Guadalupe Maravilla, Daniel Lie, and Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow. Jung added, “Each of these artists have unique perspectives and contributions, and through their work, they’ve introduced a level of newness and depth to the overall artistic zeitgeist.”
Jung further elaborated that artists who provide counternarratives to the dominant historical record, and push the boundaries of their medium across abstract and figurative painting as well as sculpture, will continue to set the trends. She specifically noted the practices of Derek Fordjour, Tomashi Jackson, Sara Jimenez, Anina Major, Natalia Nakazawa, Angel Otero, Kevin Quiles Bonilla, Amina Ross, Tariku Shiferaw, Jean Shin, and Saya Woolfalk. Jung added that the critical scholarship of Lisa Lowe, Anna L. Tsing, and Saidiya Hartman will continue to inform artistic pulses.
She remains excited for new rediscoveries in 2023, like how ceramics has been in recent years. “Another area that is often overlooked are those artists who are self-taught, often labeled as ‘outsider artists’ (e.g., those whose work does not reflect an overt influence from the mainstream art world), and are bringing a new energy to the field,” Jung wrote to Artsy.
Curator, Montclair State Galleries
Montclair, New Jersey
Portrait of Jesse Firestone by Jenna Bascom Photography, LLC’s Associate Photographer Nelson. Courtesy of Montclair State Galleries.
Jesse Firestone is on the lookout for more genre-breaking art in 2023. In particular, they point to outsider art practices—like using humor or making provocative works with unconventional material and subject matter—as big trends for the year. “I think performance artists who embrace failure while taking their work seriously, but aren’t self-serious, will receive a lot more attention,” they said. “There is a lot to learn from this type of work and I think people are hungry to see how we can work with imperfection, messiness, and unpredictability. 2023 is a year of embracing risk.”
Firestone’s attention to risk comes out of crypto art’s tumultuous year in 2022. The incredibly rapid rise and subsequent fall of NFTs have demonstrated that, while artists will continue to innovate art with new technology, some trends might crash as fast and they rose. Firestone believes that artists will continue to learn from the market and reflect upon the failures of these experiences in their work. Because of the NFT crash, Firestone sees physical media art, or art that embraces the body, as major for 2023. This is work they actively support as a curator: “Ultimately I like being able to provide artists with the space to stretch, take risks, and succeed in those efforts,” Firestone said.
Rachel Vera Steinberg
Curator, Smack Mellon
Portrait of Rachel Vera Steinberg by Inna Svyatsky. Courtesy of Smack Mellon.
Rachel Vera Steinberg is excited for a greater number of artists to further deepen the mystery of art production across sculpture and computer-generated art. She is inspired by artists who push the boundaries of the medium they are working in, as well as the space in which they exhibit. She cited the work of Emily Clayton, Tomi Faison, and Charisse Pearlina Weston as key examples. Steinberg also anticipates more conceptually driven work in relation to text- and discourse-based art, like K Allado-McDowell’s recent book Amor Cringe (2022), which was co-written with AI software.
Additionally, Steinberg predicts that last year’s challenges around systemic injustice will usher in artists addressing class and social equity in the art world. “One of the most impactful trends from this past year was the proliferation of AI image generators,” she said. “It’s hard to forecast this as a direction, but it has the potential to further call into question images as receptacles of meaning.”
Separately, Steinberg believes that more artworks inspired by religion will reach the fore in 2023. “I feel like we are entering a moment of reconsidering religion, inclusive of, but also beyond, its relationship to spirituality,” she explained. “I see this formally in visual symbols and materiality: For example, in the way an artist like Tammy Nguyen incorporates metal leaf to reference illuminated manuscripts, but also in other modes of production that are trending, such as a heightened interest in metal work.”
Director, Chisenhale Gallery
Portrait of Zoé Whitley by James Gifford-Mead. Courtesy of Zoé Whitley.
Zoé Whitley is looking to painters who are embracing unconventional materials or pushing the limits of their painting practice to render something vibrantly different and new. “The artists who currently inspire me defy genre expectations,” she said.
Furthermore, Whitley is looking forward to artists collaborating more with nonprofit organizations. She hopes that these partnerships, and their accompanying resources, will support ambitious art practices and culminate into long-running exhibitions that a greater number of viewers will be able to see and experience.
These later points are greatly influenced by Tricia Hersey’s manifesto Rest is Resistance (2022) and Avery Gordon’s Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination (1997), which both argue for a process of slowing down with media materials to allow for their presence to be felt, haunting the audience.
Ayanna Dozier is Artsy’s Staff Writer.
Tom Sachs Reveals New McDonald's Public Art – HYPEBEAST
Over the weekend, contemporary visionary Tom Sachs took to Instagram to reveal a new public art piece.
Sachs is taking street art to the next level, showcasing the process of his “Enamel on Trailer” piece that he painted on the side of a red trailer in the middle of Connecticut. The post features a series of images of Sachs painting his own rendition of the McDonald’s golden arches and branding. The piece includes signage on the bottom right corner of the trailer and appears to be dated in 2022. A closer look sees that Sachs finds perfection in imperfection as paint leaves streaks from the dripping.
The caption of the Instagram also showcases the dimension as well as the location of the piece — Max Power Motors in New Milford, Connecticut, and is “on display 24/7.” The post also shows a Google Map zoom in on where Max Power Motors is located in the world, giving fans who might be interested or passing by, a chance to view the work.
Take a look below.
In other art news, here is an official look at Jahan Loh’s Doraemon Sofubi toys.
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