Artists to (Re)discover

Artists to (Re)discover

From auction debuts to rediscoveries, these are the artists to know ahead of our May Modern & Contemporary Art sales.

From auction debuts to rediscoveries, these are the artists to know ahead of our May Modern & Contemporary Art sales.

Calida Rawles, Pillar, 2018. Modern & Contemporary Art New York Day Sale, Afternoon Session


Calida Rawles 

Auction Debut 

For Calida Rawles, water is a world-building element that encompasses both the physical and spiritual forces in her practice. “What I love about water,” Rawles notes, “is what it does to the body, of abstracting the form.” The visual and symbolic fluidity allows the artist to center her subjects in a vast and liberating domain. Rawles draws upon water’s association with salvation and purity to create works that symbolize healing and rebirth, addressing past and present traumas faced by Black Americans, and particularly Black women. Pillar, from Rawles’ iconic Water Dancer series, features a female figure wading into the water while balancing a jug on her head and holding a concentrated gaze. The enigmatic subject loosely references the figure Lilith, the folkloric first wife of Adam who refused to submit to him, whom Rawles identifies as a champion for gender equality.

Rawles is currently the focus of a solo show at The Delaware Contemporary through August, as well as a major solo exhibition at the Perez Art Museum, Miami, launching in June of this year.


Tammy Nguyen

Tammy NguyenNortheast Storm and the Young King, 2022. Modern & Contemporary Art New York Day Sale, Afternoon Session.

To view Tammy Nguyen’s Northeast Storm and the Young King is to experience, in the artist’s own words, “a world of Catholicism cannibalized by the tropics.” Nguyen combines visual elements from religious illuminated manuscripts, such as the central haloed figure, with themes relating to Vietnam’s geopolitical history, environmentalism and colonial legacies. Among the north-easterly facing jungle of birds and fauna, tiny, mosquito-like helicopters fly west against storm warnings. All the while, the young king remains composed amidst the maelstrom, reaching out to an unknown hand in reference to stories of the gospel and histories of the Vietnam War.

Northeast Storm and the Young King was the highlight work of Nguyen’s exhibition The Gale at nichido contemporary art in Tokyo in 2022. Additionally, Nguyen’s work has featured in MoMA PS1’s Greater New York quinquennial in 2021 and the Venice Biennale in 2022. She was the subject of an acclaimed solo show at the ICA, Boston, in 2023. Phillips set the current auction record for the artist in 2023 with Dust Season, 2020.


Françoise Gilot

Françoise Gilot, Flora, 1992. Modern & Contemporary Art New York Day Sale, Morning Session

Few artists span the history, culture, and movements of the 20th century like Françoise Gilot, whose eight-decade practice intersected with some of the biggest names in postwar art, while she still maintained a distinct, unique style. Known for much of her life as the ten-year muse, collaborator, and wife of Pablo Picasso, Gilot was a trained painter who, from the age of five, knew she wanted to be an artist. Her self-assurance would come to be a hallmark of the artist, whose training in philosophy, literature, and mythology deeply influenced her work, which often incorporated narrative elements and organic forms. In a telling anecdote, Gilot recalled that while her mother – a painter in her own right – was teaching her art, she never showed her how to draw; instead, the young Gilot would have to turn mistakes into intentional elements of her work. Flora, painted in 1992, showcases the artist’s later style with signature bursts of color and use of framing. Indeed much of her post-1986 work regains this pictorial quality as a means to see off the century. As Gilot notes, her "desire for serenity in the contemplation of the tangible world was most probably a very utopic way to convey a sentiment of peace at the end of a millennium where trouble, confusion and conflicts were dominant.”

Since her first show in Paris in 1943 and until her passing in 2023 at 101, Gilot exhibited widely, with major honors, solo exhibitions, retrospectives, and permanent collection inclusions at museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. Auction results for Gilot's work have skyrocketed recently, with a current record achieved earlier this year for Concert on the Green (Le Concert Champêtre). 


Charles Alston

Charles AlstonBlack and White #7, 1961. Modern & Contemporary Art New York Day Sale, Morning Session.

One of a series of eight paintings created between 1959 and 1961, Black and White #7 demonstrates Charles Alston’s signature mode of gestural abstraction during a period in which the artist’s deep connections to the Civil Rights Movement laid the foundation for a new direction in abstract art. Using a muted palette with limited tones of blacks, whites and grays, the present work provides a poignant look into the tumultuous era. Hinting at the tension of 1960s America, the black and white tones struggle around one another, clash at points, and dissipate throughout the piece as the dominant hue closes in on the center. As relevant now as ever, the work’s core commentary has not lost any sharpness, and indeed evolves to encompass our contemporary landscape, just as our viewing augments over time to imbue the work with new context and meaning – an accomplishment in abstraction, and a reminder of its capacity to bear witness to social justice.

Black and White #7 has been exhibited in numerous major exhibitions, the first of which was the historic, first, and only documented show put on by the Spiral group in May 1964. One of the first Black artists to have work exhibited in The Museum of Modern Art, New York, today Alston has works in the permanent collections of the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., the Detroit Institute of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, where he is currently featured as part of the Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism exhibition through July. 


Basil Kincaid

Basil KincaidFormulation of Words, Bodies and Selves, 2020-2022. Modern & Contemporary Art New York Day Sale, Afternoon Session

Auction Debut

Based in both St. Louis and Ghana, Basil Kincaid is at the forefront of contemporary artists working with textiles in remarkably innovative ways. A seventh-generation quilter and post-disciplinary artist, Kincaid expands the visual language of textiles by reworking found materials and fabrics local to Ghana. Kincaid embraces quilting’s tradition of thrift by upcycling fabrics, which are then transformed into a spectacular composition in Formulation of Words, Bodies and Selves. “This family tradition, among others, has provided a compass towards self-reclamation in the face of contemporary expectations,” the artist says. “It’s a way to honor my predecessors while addressing the questions and concerns of where I am – we are – today.” Through the medium of the quilt, Kincaid also brings into focus healing and restful associations.

In 2021 Kincaid was a United States Artist Fellow and their work was acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. Their work was notably included in Hauser & Wirth’s 2022 New York exhibition The New Bend, curated by Legacy Russell, and they were selected as the 2023 artist-in-residence at the Rubell Museum, Miami.


Emmi Whitehorse

Emmi Whitehorse, Canyon Lake I, 2001. Modern & Contemporary Art New York Day Sale, Morning Session.

Emmi Whitehorse is a Diné artist whose artistic practice blends storytelling traditions with images from the natural world. Also fusing abstract influences like Joan Miró and indigenous iconography, Whitehorse’s visual lexicon is intrinsically tied to the land she so masterfully renders. “My work is about, and has always been about, land – about being aware of our surroundings and appreciating the beauty of nature,” Whitehorse notes, saying that “[t]he act of making art must stay true to a harmonious balance of beauty, nature, humanity, and the whole universe. This is in accordance with Navajo philosophy.”

Canyon Lake I is a brilliant example of the artist’s practice in color and light, overlapping the harsh palate of the desert with the nuances that life must take to survive in its conditions. Foregrounded by deep, rusty shades, Whitehorse draws our attention to an emanating light in the distance, as if to signal a way out of the haze, all the while dotting the work with etchings which take the form of dried pockets where water may have flowed, cairns indicating human passage, or whisps of badland foliage trapped in the canyon. Within the asperity, Whitehorse offers affirmation that there are forces beyond the visible, and that we are constantly interacting with them. As she notes: “I hope that the calm and beauty in my work serves as a reminder of what is underfoot, of the exchange we make with nature.”

Her work has been exhibited widely since 1979, recently participating in major exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, from 2019 to 2022, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., this year. Whitehorse is one of 333 artists whose work is featured in the main exhibition of the 60th Venice Biennale.


Kent Monkman

Kent Monkman, The Storm, 2020. Modern & Contemporary Art New York Evening Sale

Fisher River Cree Nation artist Kent Monkman is best known for his explorations of contemporary Indigenous experience through a subversive practice which spans multiple disciplines and styles. Often at the center of his interventions is Monkman’s gender-fluid Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, an alter-ego-meets-visual-siren who transcends time and definition to turn the colonial gaze on its head and challenge art historical depictions of Indigenous peoples. In The Storm, Monkman engages in a two-fronted confrontation; first with the Academic Classicist painter Pierre-Auguste Cot, whose 1880 work of the same name serves as the classical foundation for its romantic myth, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a symbol of the country’s internalized values as projected by its European-settler narrative. “To the Indigenous people of Canada,” Monkman writes, the Mountie is the enforcer of the brutal colonial project that dispossessed Indigenous peoples of their lands and cultures.” The seductive Miss Chief counters the nubile eroticism of Cot’s work with absurd heroism. Monkman continues: “She knows what the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are capable of when it comes to enforcing Western settlement and forced Indigenous assimilation. Miss Chief will go all the way to stop the impending storm of colonization.”.

Monkman’s painting and installation works have been exhibited at institutions such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, Canada, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Canada, and the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada. In 2023, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada – Canada’s highest civilian honor. Monkman’s monumental painting, Death of Adonis, 2009, now in the collection of the Art Bridges Foundation, was one of two works by the artist to feature in Phillips’ landmark 2024 exhibition New Terrains. In April 2024, the artist again partnered with Phillips, releasing six new original paintings and a limited-edition hand-painted print series through Dropshop.


Raven Halfmoon

Raven HalfmoonOKLA HOMMA OHOYO, 2020. Modern & Contemporary Art New York Day Sale, Afternoon Session

Auction Debut 

Raven Halfmoon is a multidisciplinary artist known for her large-scale clay sculptures. A citizen of the Caddo Nation and also Choctaw, Delaware, and Otoe Missouria, Halfmoon began her ceramic practice while still a teenager in Norman, Oklahoma. Inspired by traditional craft, the artist looks to Caddo pottery as an experience in historical dialogue: “My tribe has been making pottery for thousands of years,” she says. “It’s such an ancient material, and I think of how my family before me did this. We have all touched clay, and that inherently transported to my hands.” OKLA HOMMA OHOYO exemplifies Halfmoon’s contemporary practice that also maintains ties to tradition. The sculpture unapologetically embodies its space, and with its steely, composite face, speaks to the story of an entire people rather than a single individual.

Halfmoon’s sculptures are in the permanent collections of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami. In 2023, she was selected as an Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellow and was also a 2024 finalist for the international Loewe Craft Prize. Her upcoming show Flags of Our Mothers opens at The Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha, in May 2024, along with a solo exhibition, Neesh & Soku (Moon & Sun), in September 2024 at Salon 94, New York.




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