Back in the day, all you needed in order to paint were some paint tubes and a brush. Now the storied discipline has undergone radical transformations, and has expanded to include works made from non-traditional such as materials as silk, nails, blood, and digital software. Such additions have complicated and breathed invigorating new life into the art form, so whether you're a die-hard realist or a tumblr-dwelling net art fan, or fall somewhere in between, this list should prove a handy guide to the brightest talents of painting in 2016.
Zosen & Mina Hamada
Zosen & Mina Hamada are a globetrotting dynamic duo—he from Argentina and she from Japan—based out of Barcelona. The pair team up to create superfun, bright, cartoonish murals all over the world, each while maintaining their own personal practices too. Their exuberant pieces don buildings from Tokyo to Turin, and are considered harbingers of cultural good cheer. The artists emphasize their "passion for colors and free forms" and collaborate in a number of different formats including murals, paintings on canvas, illustration, screenprinting, and handmade books. When asked what's exciting for 2016, the pair responded "that we don't know what's going to happen, but we will have many adventures like always." The answer complements their works: bright and playful. Zosen explains that he wants to "experiment more with ceramics and other 3D materials and concentrate on a book he's working up about our travels." In the meantime, Mina will "keep trying to create paintings with good energy, and share that good energy with more people." Making their gorgeous works a stop on your travel calendar just became a must-do, and you can catch upcoming works in Friends and Family at Delimbo Gallery in Seville, Spain, opening this February 18.
Geometry, algorithms, and physics all find a home in Tauba Auerbach's stunning creations. The artist, represented by NYC-based international powerhouse Paula Cooper Gallery, received her BA from Stanford in 2003, and had her first solo show two years later. Auerbach has said that she's always loved science and math and her work, which customarily reflects these passions, has landed her critical praise and solo exhibitions from L.A. to Norway. Auerbach currently has work in The Kitchen's show From Minimalism Into Algorithm, and her third solo exhibition with Paul Cooper Gallery, Projective Instrument, was open until just this month. The show included intricately woven canvases, handmade geometric glass objects used as paintbrushes, and Auerbach's signature ability to turn heady math into graphic beauty. The exhibition was an expansion upon and celebration of the 1915 treatise Projective Ornament by American architect and theosophist Claude Bragdon, and related to Auerbach's interest in "consciousness as a four-dimensional material" and the notion that ornamentation is capable of enabling mind-altering experiences. As far as what this year will hold for her, Auerbach has already been hand selected to design the Vienna State Opera's curtain for the 2016/2017 season, and you can bet on seeing her work pop up at major institutions globally.
You may know Paul J. Fuentes as the genius who dreamed up the image of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West as Kate Winslett and Leonardo DiCaprio in the famed Titanic "king of the world" scene." The work appeared in the TriBeCa Whole Foods as part of a Valentine's Day promotion last year; Fuentes was working as an in-store graphic designer at the location at the time in addition to his personal artistic practice. Fuentes is skilled in drawing, illustration, painting, and logo designs, and his works abound with energetic strokes and relatable content. For 2016, the artist is looking to "combine traditional painting with current advertising trends." Creating his own brand of high concept imagery, the artist says this year we can expect "bold uses of typography, texture, and color." His food-based artworks are droolworthy, and his recent portrait of Zach Galifianakis is as artful as it is relevant. When asked if he's looking forward to trying anything new this year, the artist revealed that he's "exploring deconstructing future work" and plans to "simplify it to the absolute minimum" while stick packing a punch. He's going to "strip his paintings—people, places, celebrities— to their bare bones," and hope that the pieces "convey meaning through minimalism." Timely and delectable, we are eager to see more of Fuentes' superflat style of conflating high art with pop culture vernacular.
Bending traditional notions of "painting," Giovanna Olmos works entirely on her phone, using screenshots and an app called Procreate Pocket to blur, scribble, and manipulate. The impressive young artist has already shown work at The New Museum, Kimberly Klark, Bruce High Quality Foundation University, and received a feature in Rhizome's online exhibition Brushes—and she just graduated from NYU Gallatin in 2015. Her wide-ranging, playful practice includes painting, sculpture, poetry, performance, and more, all with a new media tinge. Her tech-savvy, often humorous oeuvre includes such pieces as How To Sell A Digital Painting, an ongoing work in which she instructs readers on using smartphone apps to edit selfies into paintings, later reaping the benefits of selling to an "interested collector" and "closing the deal." Most exciting are her recent Selfie Paintings, the results of volunteers sending selfies to Olmos that she remixes via software. The hands featured in the pieces end up looking like relics of traditional realist painting, while the surrounding gestures evoke a kind of milky, digital Rothko. Going forward, the artist will be doing an online residency for Gazell.io digital art house for the month of February, and will have works included in Unpainted Art Fair, Munich, this February and Manifesta 11, Zurich, this June. She's also currently working on curating an auction of "digital files at a church in NYC," and in another bonus for New Yorkers, she plans to perform How To Sell A Digital Painting during Armory Week this year.
Donald Ferguson, Jr., better known as A$AP Ferg, is a rapper and member of the famous Harlem-based A$AP Mob, alongside other hip hop stars such as A$AP Rocky. Ferg also happens to paint, and is a no-longer little-known talent with the brush. Ferg studied drawing and painting at Manhattan's High School of Art & Design before pursuing music full-time, and he notes that he has studied the works of masters such as Francis Bacon, Mark Rothko, and Pablo Picasso. Today Ferg's artworks strike a terrific balance between abstract forms and hip-hop indebted street art. In 2015 Ferg and adidas Skateboarding hosted a show titled Always Strive and Prosper: A Photo Exhibit by Brock Fetch at Art Basel Miami Beach that documented the relationships of the A$AP Mob through painting and photographs. The exhibition also paid tribute to the late A$AP Yams, the group's founder who died tragically last year at age 26. Ferg created a vibrant, large-scale work in blue, grey, and gold in Yams' honor; the painting also adorns the long sleeved t-shirts that are included in A$AP Ferg's recent Adidas collab. Also at ABMB 2015, Ferg popped in to do a little live painting during the Paradise Lost group show. In 2016 expect to see Ferg's art gracing sleeves, sneakers, and white-cube spaces alike. The artist professes that he emulates Basquiat for being "one of the first black mainstream artists who came up from the bottom," and his works make us remember that the most famous Renaissance aside from the one in Italy was in Harlem.