Artists to Watch: New Now in New York

Artists to Watch: New Now in New York

Five names to know as we kick off art season in New York on 12 March.

Five names to know as we kick off art season in New York on 12 March.

February James, Shining on the Inside (detail), 2021. New Now New York.


February James

February James, Shining on the Inside, 2021. New Now New York.

Ever since February James could physically hold a pencil, she’s been drawing and making art, and her creative journey now includes an impressive rise within the contemporary art world. And with Phillips’ upcoming New Now auction, her work makes its first appearance at auction.

Having worked for a short period as a celebrity makeup artist, James imbues her subjects with new personas, akin to the act of a makeover. Her captivating portraits of unidentified figures probe ideas of memory and the balance between our internal and outward senses of self. Dreamlike and jubilant in its use of color, Shining on the Inside is emblematic of this approach — at once reminiscent of the Fauvists and the oil pastel portraits of South African artist Marlene Dumas.

A recent graduate of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, her work is already held in the permanent collections of the Rubell Museum and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Now based in her hometown of Washington, D.C., last year she was included in the Rubell Museum exhibition Singular Views: 25 Artists in Washington D.C.


Maja Ruznic

Maja RuznicVisitors, 2020. New Now New York.

For Maja Ruznic, the visual exploration of memory and the human psyche are tied to her early life experience. Born in 1983, she immigrated with her family to California in 1992 as the civil war broke out in their native Yugoslavia. The captivating softness and blurred effect of the Bosnian artist’s paintings appear to capture a reality caught in transition — an idea that relates directly to her first-hand experiences of childhood trauma and displacement as a refugee.

Having gained the attention of the global art world with mystical works that synthesize the figurative and the abstract, her work will be featured in the 2024 Whitney Biennial: Even Better than the Real Thing. Her use of color shifted in 2020 when she moved from California to New Mexico, where she remains based. Visitors, on offer here, resembles tones of twilight, as the artist’s characteristically ethereal depiction of form is rendered in thin, stain-like layers that reveal figures on close inspection. Her recent solo exhibitions include Maja Ruznic: Geometry of Exile (2023) at Karma in Los Angeles, Maja Ruznic: Consulting with Shadows (2022) at Karma in New York, and Migration of Spirits (2022) at the Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque.



Tabboo!Untitled, New York Skyline, 1997. New Now New York.

The story of Tabboo! is quintessentially New York, and very downtown at that. He rose to fame primarily for his trailblazing drag performances on New York’s Lower East Side in the 1980s, but has been painting luminous skylines from the same 5th Street apartment for more than 40 years. Even though he met Jean-Michael Basquiat and Anne Craig on his first day in New York (and, at their suggestion, performed his first drag show in the city at Pyramid Club that night) and Madonna was seen slinging drinks at his first solo show a few months later at the art bar Lucky Strike, it’s only now that the art world is waking up to the brilliance of this icon of downtown lore.

Born Stephen Tashjian, he came to New York from Massachusetts, where he studied painting at the Massachusetts College of Art. His cityscapes skillfully express his enduring love for the city and Untitled New York City Skyline is no different. This 1997 work glistens with glitter and acrylic in a misty haze of dark tones and neon highlights that would make even the gruffest New Yorker smile. Hot on the rise, he has shown regularly with Karma since 2017 and his work is on view in the exhibition The Myth of Normal: A Celebration of Authentic Expression at the MassArt Art Museum in Boston through this May.


Chico da Silva

Chico da SilvaBichos e Passaros (Animals and Birds), 1965. New Now New York.

Nearly 40 years since his tragic death, the work of Brazilian artist Chico da Silva is now being rightly reconsidered during a wave of renewed interest in contemporary Indigenous art. This wave of interest and scholarship, in addition to his first major New York solo show at David Kordansky Gallery, is elevating the perception of his visionary work to the heights where it belongs.

Born to an Indigenous Peruvian father and a Brazilian mother, da Silva’s creativity was sparked during childhood boat rides with his father, where he encountered thriving birds and flora along the banks of the Amazon River. As he came of age and settled in Fortaleza, he became well known to the local community for his paintings of birds on the exteriors of fisherman’s houses. He was promoted and assisted — and eventually vehemently criticized — by the Swiss art critic and artist Jean-Pierre Chabloz, who had immigrated to Brazil.

As da Silva gained notoriety, he engaged directly with his community, opening a workshop that trained and compensated locals for their assistance in the production of his work. Following criticism that this practice devalued his work, the artist succumbed to pressures and spent much of his later life battling alcoholism.

Despite all this, there’s a pure and exuberant positivity in his sophisticated and graphic approach, seen clearly in Bichos e Passaros (Animals and Birds) from 1965. There’s an almost mythological interconnectedness of anthropomorphic forms that speaks to the way the artist viewed the world and the life that exists in it. At its brilliant core, it’s ultimately a vision of a world without the constructed social hierarchies that sadly led to his personal tragedy.


Emily Furr

Emily FurrHuge if True, 2018. New Now New York.

To New York-based artist Emily Furr, a darkly contemporary sense of surreal contradiction and subtle inuendo apply to the sort of commercial products that prevail in Pop Art. Through a tangled web of visual associations, her work offers unique insights into the dynamics between gender, sexuality, interstellar existence, commercial production, and violence. In her striking paintings, a tube of blood-red lipstick can just as easily be a bullet, and a printing press could manufacture a galaxy. “I think I’m mostly focused on comparing industrialism with human legacy,” she says, “and showing how we’re squeezing nature.”

These visual contradictions, so communicative of the anxieties of our times, have gained steam within the art world, catapulting the artist to the cusp of international fame. Her debut solo show in Los Angeles with Sargent’s Daughters recently closed and she has shown widely in solo and group exhibitions throughout the globe since 2020, including the 2022 Armory Show and the 2019 Marfa Invitational. Her first solo museum show opened in 2021 at SCAD Museum in Savannah, Georgia.

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