9 Artists Who Are Rethinking the Human Experience

"StreetMuseum: Chaos" by Joo Lee Kang, 2016, mixed media, 102 x 177 x 66 in. Photo courtesy of the artist

Earlier this year, we launched the first edition of our “Contemporary Artists to Watch” series, featuring a list of innovative working artists from Paul Kotakis, Director of Annual and Alumni Programs at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Kotakis urged new collectors to connect with artists of interest to understand their history and trajectory.

From photographs to prints to works on paper, October is filled with fine art sales featuring blue-chip artists. But new and seasoned collectors alike may also strive to follow lesser-known trailblazers of their own. To ring out the second half of the month, we’re bringing 9 more notable working artists to center stage with the help of Kotakis’ curatorial eye.

Azita Moradkhani

“Gaze” by Azita Moradkhani, 2016, colored pencils on paper, 12 x 16 in. Photo courtesy of the artist

Azita Moradkhani was born in Tehran where she was exposed to Persian art and culture as well as Iranian politics. That double exposure increased her sensitivity to the dynamics of vulnerability and violence that she explores in her work and art-making process. Her drawings in colored pencil explore connected narratives of pain and pleasure through repeated abstract pattern and images based on journalism photography and iconography.

Moradkhani received her BFA from Tehran University of Art, and both her MA in Art Education and her MFA in drawing, painting & sculpture from Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University. She will be curating a show for contemporary Iranian female artists at Gallery Kayafas in spring 2017.

Brian Burkhardt

“OAK SLAB FULL,” 2015, synthetic mixed media on oak tree slab, 33.5 x 30.5 x 5 in. Photo courtesy of the artist

Brian Burkhardt’s work encompasses the blurred space between the synthetic man-made and the organic natural world in which we live. He has exhibited in galleries and museums both nationally and internationally, and his work has been placed within the top two-hundred private, corporate, and museum collections worldwide. He has shown in Boston, Miami, New York, and Wyoming.

As a designer with a strong interest in the accessory and fashion industry, Burkhardt was named the winner of Lifetime’s Project Accessory (Season One), has since designed a capsule collection for Kenneth Cole, and has shown during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Swim.

Cathy McLaurin

“The Reverend, His Lover, Their Monet, and The Museum” by Cathy McLaurin, 2016, pigment print, 13 x 19 in. Photo courtesy of the artist

Cathy McLaurin’s work makes connections between history and current social issues, with a particular interest in notions of values, morals, national identity, philanthropy, kinship, and legacy. Through development of extended relationships with personal and institutional entities, combined with extensive research in archives and libraries, she works to challenge the systems that underpin complex social issues.

McLaurin’s work is now on view in a solo exhibition at the Linda Hummel-Shea ArtSpace, Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill, MA, and will be included in October in “Obstacle Course”, at New Art Center, Newtonville, MA, and a solo show at Columbus State University, Columbus, GA, where she will be Visiting Artist in spring 2017.

Cobi Moules

“Untitled (Coast of Maine)” by Cobi Moules, 2016, oil on canvas, 19 x 31 in. Photo courtesy of the artist

Cobi Moules’ work is focused on explorations of his queer and transgender identity. The complexity of his individual experience is navigated through documentation, the subtle re-imagining of his physicality, and the creation of fantasy worlds. He explores multifaceted notions of the self, autonomy, and gratification. His work reflects on art historical representation of both portraiture and 19th-century American landscape painting. He uses these traditions as a way of seeking inclusion, creating a space for personal significance and a queer and trans presence.

Moules’ work is now on view in a solo show at the Leslie Lohman Museum of Art in New York, as well as in group shows at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Aidekman Arts Center at Tufts University, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Portland, Maine.

Erik Benjamins

“Free Smells” by Erik Benjamins, 2016, fabricated neon signage, 30 x 15 in. Photo courtesy of the artist

Erik Benjamins is a visual artist based in Los Angeles. He calls his practice “concept-driven, materially unfaithful, and unapologetically optimistic,” and explores how our comforts and expectations shift as we move between familiar and foreign places. After returning from five weeks in Chengdu, China on a traveling fellowship from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, he is now working on field recordings, ceramics, and writing about tourist rhythms and local rhythms.

Gerald Bergstein

“Book II: Fragile Sky” by Gerald Bergstein, 2016, mixed media on paper, 32 x 21 in. Photo courtesy of Gallery Naga

Gerald Bergstein’s art is based on his tragicomic worldview, his love of moral and visual paradox and his use of art issues as stand-ins for wider human issues. He says, “It emerges from my emotional, psychological and intellectual experience as well as from my love of of artists such as Pieter Breughel, Francisco Goya, Giovanni Piranesi, René Magritte, George Hitchcock, Frida Kahlo, Philip Guston, Nicole Eisenman, Saul Steinberg, Jenny Saville, Sarah Sze, Anselm Kiefer and others who find aspects of the bizarre in the quotidian.”

Bergstein’s work will be on view in a solo exhibition from October 7 to November 5, 2016 at Gallery NAGA in Boston. His art is also currently featured in a group show at Tufts University and at the New Britain Museum in Connecticut.

Joo Lee Kang

“StreetMuseum: Chaos” (detail) by Joo Lee Kang, 2016, mixed media, 102 x 177 x 66 in. Photo courtesy of the artist

By drawing mutated animals and plants, Joo Lee Kang questions nature’s place in modern context. What is nature? What is natural? The subjects that she portrays in her works reflect the ambiguity of such definitions. They show how she feels at a loss to describe what is natural in our present day. With cross-breeding, genetic engineering, and so on, the ways in which humans can control and reconfigure the natural process become more abundant as technology advances.

A visual artist, Kang received her BFA in Painting from Duksung Women’s University and her MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston / Tufts University. She has participated in eleven solo exhibits. Her installation work is showing at StreetMuseum in Seoul, Korea now and her upcoming solo show will be at Gallery NAGA in Boston in April 2017.

Paul Endres Jr.

“C#NQUER” by Paul Endres Jr., 2016, oil on panel, 30 x 50 in. Photo courtesy of the artist

Fascinated by the fictional nature of history and how it is perpetuated, Paul Endres Jr.’s work commemorates the history of “The American Burden,” his own epic dystopian narrative. Replete with satirical characters and absurd situations, his paintings celebrate contradiction, synthesizing visual and conceptual polarities, such as a mythic quest for doughnuts or an assassination flanked with hot pink smoke. History painters like Jacques Louis David, James Joyce’s Ulysses, and 90s-era superhero comic books are a few of Endres’ many diverse inspirations and references. Now at Childs Gallery in Boston is his latest chapter, “The L#ST B#YS: Paul Endres Jr.’s Children of the Burden,” on view until November 5, 2016.

Ridley Howard

“Lake House at Night” by Ridley Howard, 2016, oil on linen, 32 x 25 in. Photo courtesy of the artist

Ridley Howard’s paintings display a cool yet personal relationship to both subject matter and image. Simple depictions of people, architectural spaces, landscapes are infused with a specific painterly sensibility. The works incorporate the vernacular of vastly different genres of painting, among them High Renaissance, Pop art, and abstraction.

Howard’s work will be shown at NADA Miami with Feuer/Mesler Gallery, NY and at Art Basel Miami Beach with Fredric Snitzer Gallery, Miami. He will have a solo show with Feuer/Mesler Gallery in May of 2017. His art is currently featured in the Atlanta Biennial at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, and in Human Condition at the Hospital in Los Angeles, organized by John Wolf. Recently, his work was included in “Intimisms” at James Cohan Gallery, New York.

Howard lives and works in Brooklyn, New York and Athens, Georgia. He holds a BFA from the University of Georgia and an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.