What’s Next Art for Tomorrow is curated by 15 Emerson College undergraduate students in conjunction with a Visual Media Arts course “Curating Contemporary Art.” The process was guided by Dr. Leonie Bradbury – Emerson’s Foster Chair of Art Theory and Practice and Distinguished Curator-in-Residence. Art for Tomorrow represents the voices and desires of an emerging generation of artists. Students were responsible for all aspects of the exhibitions including: exhibit design, building a website, loan agreements, the object checklist, educational materials, social media assets, and press materials.
This exhibition is accompanied by a virtual exhibition “What’s Next? Art for Tomorrow,” hosted on Artsteps, a virtual exhibition platform.
Students sent a public call for emerging artists in the Boston area; out of the 39 responses, the following artists were selected to be showcased: Daequan Collier, Don Claude, Farimah Eshraghi, Siena Hancock, Juyon Lee, Arushi Singh, Georden West, and Zhidong Zhang. These artists were selected based on their relevance to the theme of “what’s next” and the innovative quality of the work. The themes of identity and self expression came from the works of art and were identified by the curators as central concepts.
What’s Next? addresses how various aspects of an individual’s identity – such as community, culture, and language – can both act as an obstacle in communication and create genuine relationships that deepen our understanding of ourselves. Diverse in form and representation, these thirteen artists create a modern ‘self-portrait’ of their shifting identities, reaffirming their relationship to their communities. In the uncertain times of a pandemic, artists offer collective healing through their work, saturated with personal experiences and perspectives. The work featured in the exhibition summons lucid windows that showcase each artist’s exploration of the societal structures and rituals of modern life through questions of belonging, identity and meaning.
Due to COVID-19, the gallery was closed down and as a result the exhibition could not be staged as planned. In response, the students decided to create Emerson Contemporary’s first-ever virtual exhibition. It was imperative to the curators that the exhibition could overcome these unusual challenges to still provide a worthwhile exhibition experience and honor the achievements of these emerging artists, while so many art venues were closed around the world.
About the Artists
Daequan Collier’s What If Black Boys Were Butterflies? is an experimental short film centered around an intimate, off-screen conversation between two Black men about the essence of Black boyhood. The film aims to capture the complexities of Black adolescence as well as familiarize viewers with the contemporary realities. For the artist, this piece is about the central need of young Black men in America – freedom. Read more about the artist at: daequancollier.com
Don Claude (C. Eshun) presents a series of untitled photographs focused on portraiture, establishing a close connection between a viewer and a photograph. This connection allows for an intimacy that welcomes the audience to reflect on racial prejudices by defying customary photography practices — merging fashion and high art, a style that, according to the artist, reinforces critical thinking. Read more about the artist at: claudioeshun.com
Farimah Eshraghi’s Babel Series features Iranian women surrounded in texts about female representation. These documents have been distorted and rendered illegible, yet there remain hints of what they once were. Eshraghi investigates how the patriarchal system has shaped language as an oppressive force in the lives of women through folklore, fairy tales, literature, and spoken language. Distortion of reality is seen in the linguistic and visual forms of the work. Read more about the artist at: farimaheshraghi.com
Zoe Friend’s War, a full-sized full-body coyote, aims to fill the viewer with the sense of theatrics, wonder, and subtle ghoulish-guilt of nature consumption in the name of ease, entertainment, and thoughtlessness. The work operates through a simultaneous balance and tension of subject matter against material choices. Read more about the artist at: www.zoefriend.com
Siena Hancock’s Mirror Mask and Felt Cute Today, Might Delete Later employs conceptual and craft processes to explore how womxn’s experiences are constructed, criticizing selfie culture and outside perception. Hancock pushes to integrate different perspectives in her work. She also strives to produce work built upon her own research and observations on how humans process information and conveys these findings through traditional forms of art. Read more about the artist at: sienajhancock.com
Karli Janell and Nick Batzell’s Untitled, composed of old studio walls, led lights, and laser-cut Masonite, portrays people of different gender, age, and race.The work is a fusion of novel technologies and daily scrap materials that explore the integral dimensions of inspiration and the creative process. Read more about the artist at: karlijanell.com & www.linkedin.com/in/nicholas-batzell
Juyon Lee’s Corner Drawing, a three-dimensional site specific installation, challenges the viewer to reconsider the indexical quality of a material in terms of the human experience. By disrupting the function of familiar materials like mylar, wood, drywall, and light, the spectator experiences the ephemerality of human presence and the potential of human agency. The piece emphasizes the communication between the human body, the physical object, and the light, bringing a unique experience to every individual. Read more about the artist at: juyonlee.com
Arushi Singh’s video and photo collection, Paran Aamad abstracts the intricate movements of the Indian classical dance of Kathak. Singh pays homage to Kathak by carefully preserving these subtle bodily movements through film. This modernization allows for new abstractions to emerge, expanding the audience of Kathak. Read more about the artist at: https://www.arushisingh.net/
Bryant Skopek’s Broken Masculinity, a three-dimensional site specific installation, asks the audience to reflect on concepts of trauma, anxiety, and re-define the idea of a “broken” individual. Crafted from glass and monofilament that has high reflective properties, the work interacts with light to conjure a space of self-reflection with a broken aesthetic. Read more about the artist at: instagram.com/skopek13/?hl=en
Georden West ‘19: The video piece Patron Saint manifests magic and innovation, operating through an inherently queer medium of gender expression – fashion. West fuses Jamall Osterholm’s fashion line and mystical landscape to explore how the power of fashion and media unpacks traditional conventions of gender, race, and sexuality. Starring an all queer cast and creative team, Osterholm and West’s collaboration rebuilds a world reimagining power dynamics and elevates the black queer body to the celestial. Read more about the artist at: geordenewest.com
Marika Whitaker uses map pins to locate and articulate power dynamics in I Looked Away When I Answered. Whitaker uses dotted lines as a recurring motif which motivate a commitment staying in touch with what we don’t know, the practice of building connections, and symbolizes gaps in knowledge. Strings are a binding agent, holding tension and weight, and serving as a means of communication between points. Read more about the artist at: marikawhitakerstudio.com
Zhidong Zhang’s photographic series Natural Impersonation digests how sexuality and identity are constructed under the repression of homosexuality in Chinese culture. A cast of Zhang’s friends and family embodies the artist’s experiences as a closeted gay man. His work challenges notions of normality and identification while invoking the power of queer identity. Zhang investigates how and for whom homosexuality is made visible. He is particularly interested in expressing scenes of desire, trauma, humor, defiance, and violence in his work. Read more about the artist at: instagram.com/zhangzhidong_/?hl=en