2020 Visual Artists
Kraig Blue was born in 1968 in The Bronx, New York, politicized in Washington, DC, and liberated in Los Angeles, CA. He is a multimedia sculptor using found materials as metaphors to explore complex socially constructed ideologies and paradigms; creating multilayered sculptural assemblages as altars to become vehicles for quiet contemplation and dialogue.
After graduating Mount Saint Michael Academy, at sixteen years old, he attended New York Institute of Technology as an architecture major, but soon realized his true freedom existed in image making; he took a year off and applied to Fashion Institute of Technology, and in 1989 was accepted as an illustration major. At “FIT” he was able to learn portraiture, figure drawing and painting, oils, acrylics, watercolor, graphic design, and a commercially driven work ethic.
For twenty-five years he has been a published illustrator, arts educator, and exhibiting visual artist. In 2015 he received his BFA at the Laguna College of Art & Design in figurative sculpture, painting, and drawing. While there he received the Plotkin Award for Excellence in Fine Art.
In December 2019 he received his MFA in Studio Art from The City College of New York. He has been the recipient of two Conner Scholarship awards and in 2018 the Therese McCabe Ralston Conner Fellowship to study abroad throughout Cuba.
Currently he is working at the Brooklyn Museum with their criminal justice diversion program Project Reset.
Jannette Jwahir Hawkins is an artist who lives and works in Harlem, New York City. Trees are her main medium and hold a fascination due to the way a tree grows, and releases to the earth. Sensitive to a multilayered visual rhythm in the tree, its fragility and strength is a dichotomy Jwahir’s work relies on for a gestalt of compositions that express movement and stillness as one. The wabi-sabi aesthetic, which finds beauty in the impermanent, imperfect, and unconventional, is a primary motivation for Jwahir in choosing the tree. Equally important are the common characteristics of traditional African art – call and response, repetition, rhythm, and concealment – which are foundational to Jwahir’s artistic practice and strongly reflected in her work. An award winning alumni of the City College of New York with a BA and MFA in Studio Art, Jwahir is currently pursuing a post-graduate residency in Studio Art at City College with studies in Community Engaged Art (Art Education), in addition to facilitating TArt (Talking Art) Salon, an intellectual student discussion group. Jwahir is an Artist-in-Residence/Curator for the Children’s Art Carnival, a 40-year old organization that provides exhibition opportunities for emerging and established artists as well as offering art education for children in the Harlem community.
Dario Mohr is a painter, assemblage and installation artist. He is a Brooklyn, NY based artist born in 1988. Mohr combines nostalgic personal objects of varying heights with found materials to form shrines. These occupy the space in varying ways, leaning against walls, hanging from the ceiling, and existing as free standing sculptures with an architectural aesthetic. They also contain altars with organic offerings, symbolically designating them as devotional objects. Although created from a personal vantage point, the work functions publicly to open the audience’s perspective to ways they can reimagine nostalgic objects as symbols for memories, people, and experiences that can take on a spirituality of their own when revered in a way that is decontextualized from religion.
RECENT VISUAL & PERFORMANCE ARTISTS
ZHONG BIAO is a contemporary Chinese Neo-Surrealist painter. Born in Chongqing, China in 1968, Zhong’s work vacillates between the tension of body, object, and landscape. He often paints figures in stark black and white set against vibrant backgrounds in color in swirling, apocalyptic compositions. Inspired by a rapidly changing China where the country has grown economically, culturally, and politically, he examines these new circumstances throughout his oeuvre while retaining a sense of remove. “I don’t want to force my own understanding or interpretation of my paintings on the audience. The mixture of images within each of my paintings is like a combination of controversial elements in life,” Zhong has explained. “Like life, we cannot understand everything that we have seen or experienced. In my paintings, Eastern and Western, historical and modern opposites coexist, reflecting the reality of today’s lifestyle.” His work has been showcased in numerous exhibitions worldwide, and has been featured at the Art Scene Warehouse in Shanghai, the Frey Norris Gallery in San Francisco, and Christie’s in London. Zhong currently lives and works in Sichuan, China where he teaches at the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts.
Courtesy of the Eli Klein Gallery
G.R. IRANNA was born in Kamataka, India, 1970. During his youth, Iranna studied in a Gurukul (a system of education where the student resides l.p.with the teacher) and lived in an ashram for almost seven years. This helped to form a strong connection to his cultural roots, which enters his work alongside his exploration of the antitheses of inherent dualities of the world. Iranna endeavors to translate an internal landscape onto tactile surfaces and aspects of Buddhist art influences are evident. Although he began painting oil on canvases, Iranna later developed his range of medium, embarking on his now primary use of tarpaulin. The artist lives and works in New Delhi, India.
Courtesy of the Aicon Contemporary Gallery
JAMINI ROY was born in 1887 (West Bengal) in a small village in the Bankura district, West Bengal, Jamini Roy joined the Government School of Art, Kolkata in 1903. He began his career by painting in the Post- Impressionist genre of landscapes and portraits, very much in keeping with his training in a British academic system. Yet, by 1925, Roy had begun experimenting along the lines of popular bazaar paintings sold outside the Kalighat temple in Kolkata. By the early 1930s, Roy began to use indigenous materials in his works, painting on woven mats, cloth and wood coated with lime. His inspiration for painting on woven mats was the textures he found in Byzantine art, which he had seen in color photographs. It occurred to him that painting on a woven mat might make for an interesting mosaic-like surface.
The Santhals, tribal people who live in the rural districts of Bengal, were an important subject for Roy. A series of works done a decade before World War II is a prime example of how he captured the qualities that are a part of native folk painting and combined them with those of his own. He fused the minimal brush strokes of the Kalighat style with elements of tribal art from Bengal (like that of the terracotta work found in the Bishnupur temple, where terracotta was often composed into elaborate, decorative units over portals and across exterior walls of the temples).
Roy’s rejection of the then modern style of painting and his foray into the realm of Bengali folk paintings marked a new beginning in the history of Indian modern art. The mother and child, Radha, and animals were painted in simple two-dimensional forms, with flat color application and an emphasis on the lines. The main subjects were often enclosed within decorative borders with motifs in the background. The figure of the Christ was also one of Roy’s common subjects.
Roy held several one-man exhibitions and numerous group shows. His works can be found in several private and public collections, institutions and museums all over the world, including the Lalit Kala Academy in Delhi and museums in Germany and the United States of America.
Died 1972, Kolkata, India.I
Courtesy of the Aicon Contemporary Gallery
Dianne Smith’s career as a multidisciplinary artist spans over two decades. Her solo and group exhibitions include, I found God in Myself, 2018, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit, MI. Dianne Smith, Re: Harlem, 2017, Artist and the Archive, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Harlem Triennial. Surface and Soul, 2012, Piedmont Art Center, Martinsville, Virginia, Connections, 2012, Art Basel, Miami, and Transformers Coiled Potentials, 2012, at the Atelierhof Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany.
In 2013 Dianne received a Fulbright from The United States Consulate General in Guayaquil, Ecuador. She worked with the Museo Municipal de Guayaquil, Museo Arte y Ciudad, and local artists to create a public art mural. She is known for her public art installations such as Gumboot Juba, 2011, Armory Week, New York City, Organic Abstract, the New York City Parks Department, Armory Week, and Bartow-Pell Mansion as well as, the Andrew Freedman Houses, Bronx, New York, 2013.
Dianne has over a decade of experience as an educator in the field of Aesthetic Inquiry with Lincoln Center Education, which is part of New York City’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. During her tenure, she taught K-12 in public schools throughout the Tri-State area. Her work as an educator also extends to undergraduate and graduate courses in various colleges and universities such as Lehman College, Brooklyn College, Columbia University Teachers College, St. John’s University, and as an adjunct professor at the City College of New York’s Department of Education. Until most recently, she was the Director of Public Engagement at the Allentown Art Museum. As the department head, she led her team in curating dynamic, innovative, and inclusive community programming.
In 2007, she was one of the artists featured in the Boondoggle Film Documentary Colored Frames. The film took a look back at fifty years of African American Art. It also featured other artists such as Benny Andrews, Ed Clark, and Wangechi Mutu. That same year the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church, which is New York’s oldest African American church, commissioned Dianne to create the artwork commemorating their 2008 Bicentennial. She also co-produced an online radio show, the New Palette, for ArtonAir.org (Art International Radio) dedicated to visual artists of color. She was a regular contributor to the State of the Arts NYC on WBAI radio.
Early in her career, Dianne presented both the late Poet Dr. Maya Angelou and Broadway Choreographer George Faison, each with one of her paintings: Spirit of My Ancestors I and II. Her work is also in the private collections of Danny Simmons, Vivica A. Fox, Rev. and Mrs. Calvin O. Butts, III, Cicely Tyson, the late Arthur Mitchell, Reginald Van Lee, Tasha Smith, and Terry McMillian. Dianne Smith is a Bronx native of Belizean descent. She attended LaGuardia High School of Music and Art, the Otis School of Design, and the Fashion Institute of Technology. Smith received her MFA at Transart Institute in Berlin, and she currently lives and creates in Harlem, NY.
GENG XUE was born in Jilin, China, in 1983. She attended the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China, from which she graduated in 2007 with a BFA. In 2013, she attended the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design in Karlsruhe, Germany and received an MFA from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China, in 2014, under the tutelage and direction of renowned artist Xu Bing. Through her travels across the globe and her immersion in different cultures, Geng developed a contemporary style that is indicative of her curious nature and passion for tradition. For the stop-animation film Mr Sea (2014), Geng uses ceramics to craft a tale reminiscent of the stories found in the Qing Dynasty collection Strange Tales from Make-do Studio, merging narrative story with her exploration of the medium’s visual language. Geng kept developing her craftsmanship and mastery towards sculpting and delivered her solo exhibition Mount Sumeru at Klein Sun Gallery in 2017 covering works in both porcelain and bronze. This show references the sacred mountain Mount Sumeru, considered as the center of the physical and spiritual universe in Buddhist cosmology. Raising essential philosophical questions such as ‘who we are’ and ‘where we are’, Mount Sumeru discusses the problems of perception as the channel between the subjective world and objective world. Geng views art as an ingenious method of communication and Mount Sumeru is her contemporary manifestation of her persistence and attitude towards her own style of sculptures.
Courtesy of the Eli Klein Gallery
YING ZHU was born in Lanzhou, China in 1979, and graduated with an MFA from the Studio Art department of University of Nebraska, Lincoln, in 2010. Zhu’s work has always been tied to the self in the context of the world around us. In her site-specific installations, she methodically draws out the relationships between action and consequence.
A former artist-in-residence at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art and Vermont Studio Center, 2013, and at Headland Center for the Arts, 2014, Zhu regularly collaborates with established organizations. Her recent work includes a mural crafted solely out of lego bricks for Project Harmony, a non-profit dedicated to preventing child abuse. The University of Nebraska also invited Zhu to create a piece for their Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center, resulting in an immersive installation constructed of tinted mirror shards. She participated in the Klein Sun Residency at Millers Falls Art Bridge in 2015.
Her work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions including Live Like An Astronaut, Klein Sun Gallery, New York, NY (2015); Crumbs of Tenderness, Lied Gallery, Creighton University, Omaha, NE (2014); Return As Departure, Lux Center for the Arts, Lincoln, NE (2014); Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining, Union for Contemporary Art, Omaha, NE (2014); and Please Watch Your Step, Museum of Nebraska Art, Omaha, NE (2013). Group exhibitions include Magical Thinking, Roots Division, San Francisco, CA (2014); Process, Antenna Gallery, New Orleans, LA (2013), III Moscow Young Art Biennale, Moscow, Russia (2012); Mind the Gap, Neukolln Art Festival Nacht Und Nebel, Berlin, Germany (2011); Crossing 2009, Harwood Art Center, Alberquerque, NM (2009); and Obstructed View, Wood Halls Gallery, University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa, AL (2008). She is the recipient of the NAC Distinguished Artist Grant (2013) and Best Emerging Artist and Best New Media Artist at Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards (2012).
Ying Zhu currently lives and works in Omaha, Nebraska.
Courtesy of Eli Klein Gallery