Young Artists to Watch

PHOTOFAIRS New York: <br>Young Artists to Watch

PHOTOFAIRS, the contemporary art fair dedicated to photo-based and digital artworks, has explored the diverse and rapidly evolving practices of image-making for nearly 10 years. It was first launched in 2014 in Shanghai. Now, the debut New York edition takes place at the heart of the largest and most dynamic global market for art and photography. Exhibitors span more than 20 different cities, and include 193 Gallery, Paris; inside-out, Brussels; PIBI Gallery, Seoul; and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York. A wide range of photographers are contributing, like established and previously Aesthetica-featured artists Aziz + Cucher, Edward Burtynsky and Margeaux Walter. Here are four young and emerging talents to watch.

Arielle Bobb-Willis (b. 1995) uses the camera as a tool of empowerment. Joyful, vibrant outfits are depicted against sunny backgrounds, as she captures her subjects in both urban and rural cities. The artist toes the line between contemporary art and fashion, having worked with Foam, The New York Magazine as well as Acne Studios and Valentino. These pictures carry a strong visual message that points to themes of belonging and connection, inspired in part by artists such as Clementine Hunter and Max Ernst. This sense of dynamism is also carried forth by Derrick O. Boateng (b. 1998) who creates digital portraits that burst with energy. Saturated palettes and playful motifs like boxing gloves, fruit and flowers dominate. Roses bloom out of mouths as figures joyously face the camera, bearing string bags of lemons. The artist, based in Accra, Ghana, shoots and edits on his phone and has seen his work used for Google Chrome as well as cover art for rapper Common. His images, reminiscent of Djeneba Aduayom, Prince Gyasi and Isaac West, look to “accurately depict what African culture truly embodies.” Boateng says to Homecoming Gallery, “To me, that includes our unyielding optimism, pride, unity, sense of family, resilience, beauty, success and rich traditions. And, of course, the embodiment of positive expressions such as joy and happiness.”

Elsewhere, Elliot & Erick Jiménez are a Cuba-based photo duo – and pair of identical twins – who portray the ephemeral nature of light and colour through composition, typically rendering their subjects like classical paintings a sense of divinity and grandeur. In The Grand Odalisque (2022), a nude body poses on a plinth covered in yellow silk, their skin speckled with tiny white dots that are reminiscent of stars. In The Apotheosis of Lukumí (2022 ), a woman rises like a saint against an intricately painted Renaissance fresco. Taken from the series Entre Dos Mundos, (Between Two Worlds), these works explore the syncretism between Catholicism and Yoruba religion, more commonly known as Lucumí or Santeria. Here, the pair draw on their own childhood experiences as first-generation Americans in a biracial Cuban family. The artists explain to New Times, “When the Spanish colonized Cuba, they enslaved Yoruban people and forced them to convert from their original faith of Isese to Catholicism. In order for them to continue their practice, they concealed their gods, the deities based on Catholic saints with similar ideals, which is what the show visualizes.” The result is a powerful combination of reverence and specificity.

These artists create an exciting visual playground – filled with curiosity and digital experimentation – in which viewers are encouraged to examine what it means to be in the modern world today. Fair Director Helen Toomer explains: “PHOTOFAIRS New York brings together a global network of galleries and interdisciplinary spaces that have championed photography for decades and also support artists breaking boundaries in the field. Our commitment to integrating exhibitors across distinct mediums for this edition enables our audience to discover new technologies and rediscover photography’s history. | 8 – 10 September

Words: Chloe Elliott

Image Credits:

1. © Derrick O. Boateng, NOTHING LIKE WASTE, 2022, courtesy of inside-out

2. © Arielle Bobb-Willis, Series New Orleans, 2021, courtesy of Les filles du calvaire

3. © Derrick O. Boateng, WARRIOR GOWN, 2022, courtesy of inside-out

4. © Elliot and Erick Jiménez, The Grand Odalisque, 2022, courtesy of Spinello Projects

5. © Derrick O. Boateng, NOTHING LIKE WASTE, 2022, courtesy of inside-out

6. © Elliot and Erick Jiménez, The Apotheosis of Lukumí, 2022, courtesy of Spinello Projects