Currents in Figurative Art


With much contemporary art exploring newly available media like video animation and 3D printing, there’s been a similarly exciting wave of emerging artists taking figurative painting head-on. These young artists have a refreshing take on the traditional media with playful and exuberantly colored work, and at times a sharp social message. Everyday life is depicted with an exaggerated flatness and bold aesthetic, and even when current political events are explored, it’s done with youthful energy and optimism.



Jonas Wood


Jonas Wood, Interior with Fireplace (2012). Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery.



40-year old artist Jonas Wood is already a household name in the Los Angeles art scene and beyond. Looking at his bright canvases, one can’t help but think of David Hockney’s similarly flat renditions of heavily vegetated LA homes and other scenes of daily life in sunny California. With subject matter that is instantly recognizable and easy to grasp, there’s a democratic and inclusive element to these works that is so appealing. Wood’s work is currently up in a joint exhibition with Ed Ruscha at Gagosian in San Francisco until June 17, while Hockney has a major Tate Britain retrospective running through May 29.



David Hockney, Garden, (2015) at Tate Britain. ©David Hockney, Courtesy Richard Schmidt



Awol Erizku


Awol Erizku, S.A.N.D.A.S, (2016). Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts.


Awol Erizku, installation view at Stems Gallery. Courtesy of Stems Gallery.



Fellow Los Angeles-based artist Awol Erizku just opened a show titled ‘Make America Great Again’ which is on view until June 2nd at Ben Brown Fine Arts in London, as well as a colorful exhibition at Stems Gallery in Brussels which closes May 27. The rising star proved his true potential as an artist after his sudden fame from shooting Beyonce’s viral pregnancy pictures. Undeniably political, Erizku references the Black Panther Party as well as Trump’s America, evoking Jean-Michel Basquiat through his pop-culture symbolism against expressively colored backdrops. Erizku’s ultimate goal is use his art to ‘elevate blackness to the same level of universality as whiteness’.


Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ascent, (1983). Courtesy of


Nina Chanel Abney


Nina Chanel Abney, Untitled (FUCK T*E *OP), (2014). Courtesy of Kravets Wehby Gallery.



Nina Chanel Abney is a New York-based artist whose allegorical work is similarly politically charged, and tells stories of police brutality against people of color through recognizable imagery and highly saturated colors. Subject matters are depicted side-by-side and floating on the canvas with little regard for perspective, which draws attention to the subject in a confident and to-the-point manner. Both Abney and Erizku send a powerful message, of criticism and of frustration, but bursting with an underlying positivity and hope for improvement. The Nasher Museum at Duke University (at Durham University, NC) is showing ‘Royal Flush’ until the 16th of July as Abney’s first solo exhibition in a museum.



Danny Fox



Danny Fox, The Dessert Spoon (in Red Harmony), (2016). Courtesy of



Originally from the UK, self-taught artist Danny Fox has been based in LA for some time now. His large-scale and brightly colored work has a painterly flatness to it that is very in-your-face. Last fall Sotheby’s S|2 gallery in Los Angeles hosted an exhibition titled ‘Adder Among Coughs’ of work by Fox. Fox’s work however, is perhaps less of a depiction of the NOW as is the case with the artists mentioned above, but more of a narrative around ‘a history of societal advancements and declines’.


By: Constance van Berckel


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