Artists on Artists to Watch, and Maybe Even Collect

Noor Brara, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, June 14, 2021

The best direction one could give to someone interested in expanding their knowledge of contemporary art is to pay attention to what artists are paying attention to; artists always know before everyone else does. With this in mind, we asked 16 established artists from all over the world about a young or underappreciated artist whose work resonates with them. They spoke about why these talents deserve more attention than they’re getting, and why readers should take time to explore their oeuvres, which inspect, among other things, issues of identity, race, material culture, social justice, climate change and how we live.


For her part, the renowned 96-year-old Syrian-American poet and painter Etel Adnan, whom we interviewed for this story but who wasn’t able to select just one artist, chose instead to share a bit of advice for all the artists mentioned — each of whom, she says, is rising in their own way. “The thing I want them to remember,” she says, “is that being an artist means you’ll always be a little insecure and a little unsure because you don’t know where you’re going a lot of the time — every act of creation is new. You may have feedback, and there are moments when people will give you reassurance, but you won’t have that always. But that’s true of life in general, and people make too big a fuss over the struggles of being an artist, as though an artist’s humanity is different from anyone else’s, as though we are a different kind of creature. It’s not. We are not. Keep going.” ...


Laleh used to show at Salon 94, and they had a show of her work in their little space in Freeman Alley, which had on display, I think, one video and a couple of small paintings. I was blown away by them. I had heard about her years before, but I hadn’t knownanything about her work. The animation and the paintings were both about this kind of landscape that she creates out of this imaginary world that somehow is rooted in ancient mythological and theatrical spectacle. Within her abstraction, there was such amazing intensity and I thought, “Wow, I need to know more about her.” This was when she was emerging, and she became a hit for a moment.


Then she sort of disappeared. But I got to know her, and we became pretty good friends. She’s an Iranian who grew up in this country, so she has very little relationship to Iran— but she’s still an immigrant, still a foreigner in that way. The most fascinating part about her work is the narrative that she creates through these assemblages of colonies or cosmic voyages and ruined landscapes that belong to destroyed buildings of ancient times — yet they’re totally postindustrial, and she uses a lot of digital techniques to achieve them in her paintings. I’m not a painter, and my work is about realism and photography and all of that, but there’s something about her vulnerability and something deeply human in her work that has always resonated with me. ...


From the T: The New York Times Style Magazine website.