David Hockney (b.1937) is one of the most important — and popular — British artists of the past century. Springing to fame as part of the Pop movement in the 1960s, he has since developed a reputation for the rich variety of his artistic practice, which ranges from landscape paintings and photo-collages to etchings, stage sets and, most recently, iPad drawings.
In 2017, he was the subject of a major, career retrospective at Tate Britain in London. Seen by 478,000 people, it is the most-visited exhibition in the gallery’s history. The show subsequently travelled to the Centre Pompidou in Paris and very recently finished its run at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Sam Gilliam (b. 1933) made his name as a Colour Field painter in Washington D.C. in the 1960s and is probably best known for his pioneering ‘drape paintings’: colourful, abstract canvases that he suspended, without stretcher bars, from hooks on gallery walls, and which took on a folded, sculptural appearance. He has continued to push the boundaries of abstract painting throughout his career.
Gilliam, who represented the United States at the 1972 Venice Biennale, was invited to return to the exhibition in 2017. He hung a new ‘drape painting’ above the entrance to the central pavilion in the Giardini.
The artist will be the subject of a major exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Basel in the summer of 2018. Last year, his work also featured prominently in the exhibition, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, at London’s Tate Modern.
A major force on the Los Angeles art scene since the turn of the millennium, Laura Owens (b. 1970) is renowned for her jubilantly unpredictable, large-scale paintings. These mix art-historical and pop-culture references (from the Bayeux tapestry to greetings cards), and incorporate a host of different media (from embroidery to screen-printing).
The New York Times critic, Roberta Smith, recently called Owens ‘one of painting’s most innovative explorers’, and from November 2017 to February 2018, she was the subject of a significant, mid-career survey show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
Now a globally successful conceptual artist, Danh Vo (b.1975) was born in a village outside Saigon, in Vietnam. Four years later, with the country at war with Cambodia, Vo’s family fled on a makeshift boat and ended up settling in the suburbs of Copenhagen, after being picked up by a Danish freighter. ‘We were the only Vietnamese there,’ Vo remembers. ‘I just hated the idea of being different, but I knew I was.’
This eventful, personal history infuses pretty much every art work Vo makes, as he addresses issues such as cultural identity, belonging, colonialism and migration. His regular use of gold leaf is seen to symbolise the longstanding hope for riches of myriad immigrants to the West.
Danh Vo is currently having a comprehensive survey exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in New York.
Illinois-born Nina Chanel Abney (b. 1982) has said her art is ‘easy to swallow, hard to digest’. She’s referring to the way — despite the bright colours and naïf figures — her work addresses often-violent tales of racial and social injustice in contemporary America.
She's hailed for revitalising narrative figurative painting, with her visually packed scenes (commonly including dollar signs, questions marks and single-syllable exclamations like ‘wow’) reflecting the bombardment of information we’ve grown accustomed to in the internet age.
Abney’s first solo museum show is currently on at the Chicago Cultural Center and will travel to the ICA in Los Angeles in September. The artist has also just produced a set of murals for the Palais de Tokyo, in Paris.