In 2019, Colombian artist Olga de Amaral was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women's Caucus for Art in New York. Fittingly, De Amaral continues to hold a presence in the city, this year with Richard Saltoun Gallery in The Armory Show.
De Amaral works with materials historically associated with design or craft, such as natural and artificial fibres and precious metals. She is renowned for her hanging textile works that inhabit the tradition of weaving, often incorporating elements and techniques that add dimension and texture.
Estela 56 [Trail 56] (2015) is fully finished with gold leaf, giving the work a sense of exquisite opulence. Slightly off-centre and contained within two rectangular boxes is the imprint of a sunburst-like form, perhaps a reference to the pre-Columbian worship of the sun. The texture of the woven linen surface recalls the patterning of adobe houses or trails, after which the work is titled.
Olga de Amaral was recently the subject of the major travelling retrospective To Weave a Rock, presented in the US at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas (2021) and Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (2021–2022). The Armory Show presentation precedes her solo exhibition at Lisson Gallery in London (23 September–29 October 2022).
Maria Nepomuceno at Sikkema Jenkins & Co.
Brazilian artist Maria Nepomuceno creates playful, tactile sculptures and installations that often recall bodily elements. Employing a variety of craft methods—such as knitting and traditional Brazilian weaving and straw braiding—Nepomuceno combines materials, shapes, and forms in captivating assemblages that almost take on a life of their own.
Presented by Sikkema Jenkins & Co., Untitled (2021) is evocative of innards with its fleshy tones and flaccid, elongated intestinal structures. Straw, rope, beads, resin, and ceramics all come together to embody the artist's delight in material experimentation and the manipulation of form.
The Armory Show overlaps with Dentro e fora infinitamente, Nepomuceno's solo exhibition currently on view at SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, until 26 December 2022.
Jaider Esbell at Galeria Millan
Late Macuxi artist Jaider Esbell's O espírito de Pajuarú (bebida fermentada do povo Makuxi) (2021) is a striking painting of a solitary figure, composed of brilliant colours, lines, and dots in acrylic paint, that materialises from the blackness behind.
A largely self-taught artist, writer, and curator, Esbell was also a tireless advocate for Indigenous rights and decolonisation of state-sanctioned narratives in Brazil through art. Esbell's paintings, drawings, installations, and performances draw from the mythology and cosmology of Macuxi people, who live in the borderlands of Brazil, Guyana, and Venezuela.
Before his untimely death in November 2021, Esbell had established the Jaider Esbell Contemporary Indigenous Art Gallery in Boa Vista, Roraima, and curated Moquém_Surarî: Contemporary Indigenous Art for the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art, among other projects.
Esbell's presentation at Galeria Millan follows the inclusion of his work in the 59th Venice Biennale (2022), as part of the International Art Exhibition The Milk of Dreams, and in the 34th Bienal de São Paulo (2021).
New York-based artist Tomokazu Matsuyama has a reputation for his elaborate paintings on shaped and conventional canvases that pull imagery from Japanese ukiyo-e, classical sculptures, and pop culture.
Kavi Gupta highlights another strand of his practice with Dancer (2021), a stainless-steel sculpture composed of expressive limbs. Matsuyama's sculptures may appear colourless at first sight, especially so when compared to his usually radiant paintings. But as the artist told Ocula Magazine in 2021, 'Everything outside is colourful. Outside the white cube, colour gets lost. But place a white or colourless work with a mirrored finish in public, then it becomes colourful.'
First shown in the artist's solo exhibition The Best Part About Us at Kavi Gupta Chicago earlier this year, this three-metres tall dancer can be found outside the Flatiron Building in New York during the Armory Show.
Tomokazu Matsuyama's presentation follows Harmless Charm, his solo exhibition at Sotheby's Hong Kong in June that showed his paintings and NFTs together for the first time.
Bernar Venet at Kasmin Gallery
French conceptual artist Bernar Venet is best known for his imposing curvilinear steel sculptures, made up of messy stacks of giant scribble-like coils and towering half-circles that prevail upon their surroundings.
With recurring titles like Indeterminate Lines, Arcs, Angles, and Straight Lines, Venet's monumental works, rendered with mathematical precision in Corten steel, have found homes in public spaces across the globe. His international sculptural endeavours earned him France's Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur and the International Sculpture Center's Lifetime Achievement Award.
Nonetheless, Venet's practice is not purely sculptural. Drawing has been an integral aspect of his work since the seminal 'Indeterminate Line' sculptures, which he began making in 1979. Venet's sculptures, both large and (in the case of the work presented by Kasmin Gallery) small, are precisely and scientifically conceived in his drawings, and reference the line whether it is an angle, a perfect curve, or a scribble.
As with their forms, the material of his works—not only industrial steel, but also tar, coal, asphalt, wood, and cardboard—has singular unequivocal meaning. Bernar Venet told Ocula Magazine earlier this year, on the occasion of a major retrospective at Tempelhof Airport, that '[t]he materials I worked with were the cheapest and most readily accessible, and I displayed them as such.'
Yun-Fei Ji at James Cohan
Spectres, demons, and ghosts form the mise-en-scène of Yun Fei-Ji's delicately painted narratives. As critiques of oppressive power structures in the US and China, his compositions speak to fundamental truths of the human condition, all with a healthy dose of irony.
Born in Beijing in 1963, three years before the Cultural Revolution began, Ji's works in ink and watercolour draw from Chinese folklore and landscape painting traditions to reframe today's ever-shifting social and political topography. In works like the monumental scroll The Three Gorges Dam Migration (2009), Ji's activism goes beyond the canvas to shed light on the communities affected by human-induced and environmental disasters.
Yun-Fei Ji's presentation anticipates his solo exhibition at James Cohan, opening on 17 November, and inclusion in the group show Dialogues Across Disciplines at the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art, New York, beginning on 17 September.
Main image: Bernar Venet, Stack: 15 Arcs (2022). Rolled steel with black patina. 34.3 x 101 x 101 cm. © Bernar Venet. Courtesy Kasmin Gallery. Photo: Jerome Cavaliere.