10 Contemporary Artists to Watch

Share this:

10 Contemporary Artists to Watch

"Tilted Heritage" by Daniela Rivera, ash on canvas, stretcher bars, C clamps, pulley system and rope, 30 x 10 x 20 ft., 2015. Photo courtesy of the artist


In anticipation of The Armory Show (March 3-6) in New York and other exciting art fairs generating buzz in the booming contemporary art world, you might feel the urge to attend, or at the very least, start thinking about your own collection.

For new collectors, it’s about first getting comfortable with the art market, says Paul Kotakis, Director of Annual and Alumni Programs at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. As a first step, consider tapping into smaller local resources like art schools, community art centers, and other arts nonprofits. Start gaining a level of comfort with those audiences, he says, to hopefully build relationships with artists directly.

“I like to really explain to new collectors the full story behind a particular artist; where they came from, and where they’re going in both life and career,” he says. “If you find an artist you love early on in their career then you can be a part of their trajectory and success, and in turn ride the waves of that success. All along the way, you should maintain your cheerleader position for these artists. You're not just investing in an object, you're investing in a person."

We sat down with Kotakis to curate a starter list of talented contemporary artists to watch and cheer on. Some on this list have had significant successes and you will find them at the NY fairs this week, and others are recent graduates who are new to the gallery world.


"Carmen Leda" by Gonzalo Fuenmayor, charcoal on paper,
69 x 45 in., 2015. Photo courtesy of the artist


Gonzalo Fuenmayor (b. 1977 in Baranquilla, Colombia)

Gonzalo Fuenmayor's recent body of work focuses on "dislocation and exoticism" through a series of large-scale charcoal drawings. In them, he explores cross-cultural and hybrid identities through what he calls "clichéd aspects of tropical culture," mixing in elements of Pop and Victorian style.

"As the past, the present, the exotic and the familiar collide, absurd and fantastic panoramas arise," he states.

Fuenmayor has exhibited in numerous solo and group shows in USA, Latin America, and Europe.

Upcoming Shows:

Dolby Chadwick Gallery, San Francisco, CA (September 1-24, 2016)
Galeria El Museo, Bogota, Colombia (October 12 – November 12, 2016)


"Ishihara Test in Lite–Brite" by Matthew Gamber, "Any Color You Wish" series, gelatin silver print, 2010. Photo courtesy of the artist


Matthew Gamber (b. 1977 in Boston, USA)

Matthew Gamber is an artist and educator inspired by scientific illustration, op art, and minimalism. He explores how photography can be both documentary and illusory in his latest series, "Basic Ingredients Of A Complex World," by experimenting with three-dimensional techniques in both analog and digital media. By tampering with the image to amplify its information, says Gamber, he highlights where perceptions can be both true and false.

Gamber is an Assistant Professor in the Visual Arts Department at the College of the Holy Cross. He has exhibited in the Boston area and various cities across the United States.

Upcoming Show:

Archiv*, Gallery Kayafas, Boston (April 15–May 21, 2016)


"Home Depot House" by John Gonzalez, 10 x 8.5 x 12.5 ft. cabin, 2013. Photo courtesy of the artist

John C. Gonzalez (b. 1980 in Providence, USA)

John Gonzalez works on project-based art involving painting, sculpture, and performance. Interested in “processes of collaboration within creation, reading, and dissemination of objects and actions,” Gonzalez’s art can be considered community-oriented; he seeks to “connect people and forge networks in unique ways.”

Inspiration for one particular project stemmed from his experience as an employee at the Home Depot. There, he says, he became a facilitator of how certain products were to be disseminated to become material for other people's projects. He proposed the construction of Home Depot House, a cabin he made with Home Depot employees made from materials and displayed in the store. It was later relocated to the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts and then served as an artist studio for local artists that Gonzalez invited as part of an artist residency.

"If the idea of constructing Home Depot House was a way to articulate a collective value for creativity, expression, and collaboration, and functioning as a sanctioned component of the corporate ideological and bureaucratic interests, then I felt the invitation to install the cabin at the deCordova should behave in a similar way for this institution and visitors," he says.

Gonzalez’s work has been exhibited in cities across New England, New York City, Austin, Texas, and Australia.

Upcoming Shows:

Brown University, Rhode Island (May 2016)
Socrates Sculpture Park, New York City (May 14, 2016)


"I Am Teaching a Stone to Talk" performance piece by Greg Lookerse, Kingston Gallery, Boston. Photo courtesy of the artist

Gregory Lookerse (b. 1987 in Southern California, USA)

Gregory Lookerse is an interdisciplinary artist working in drawing, installation, and performance. He finds most of his inspiration in literature, and his current body of work explores these inspirations by using the physical pages from books in performances, drawings, and sculptures.

"While I make work that is on one hand an interpretation or reinterpretation of the texts via a visual response, each piece is also a bibliographical reference point," he says. "The process takes the physical book off the shelf and allows for an arena of interaction where the written words are more physically incarnate."

This process, he says, allows him to "shamelessly promote books" he likes and "quote" literature in a visual way. Lookerse's upcoming work will respond to Darwin, Einstein, Cervantes, L'Engle, and "probably more if someone gives [him] a good book."

Lookerse completed his graduate work at Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He has exhibited internationally.

Upcoming Show:

Piano Craft Gallery, Boston (October 2016)


"The Clock" by Ethan Murrow, graphite on paper, 44 x 44 in., 2015. Photo courtesy of the artist

Ethan Murrow (b. 1975 in Greenfield, MA, USA)

After Ethan Murrow stumbled upon a photo of his grandparents in the Kalaloch Lodge in the Pacific Northwest, their story of their American Dream sparked the artist's interest in a much greater story of discovery, loss, and reinvention. That is, the narrative of North American populations moving East to West – and "the factual, idealized, absurd, and uncomfortable ways in which [Americans] choose to craft tales about [their] country."

Murrow claims that America is "particularly good at rendering a vision of itself that conveniently edits out the messy, unwanted and uncomfortable truths of our past," as evidenced in works by artists like Hudson River School painter Albert Bierstadt. "Bierstadt has been a frequent target of admiration as well as cynical reference in the drawings. I nod to these masterworks, recognizing that the ambition and possibility of the United States can be seen within these depictions of drama and wonder."

But through his images, Murrow hopes to "cut away at the neat and tidy narrative of progress and domination and create moments that deal with the abundant misinformation, deep confusion, genuine absurdity, and billowing mass that has always kept this country on its toes."

Ethan Murrow serves on the Graduate and Painting Faculty at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He has exhibited around the world in Paris, Brussels, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and more.

Upcoming Shows:

Pulse New York, New York City (March 3-6, 2016) The Atrium Project, Jacksonville Museum of Contemporary Art, Florida (March 2016)
Solo show at Winston Wachter Fine Art, New York City (September 2016)


“Chiral Lines 18” by Rachel Perry, graphite, marker, ballpoint, colored pencil on paper, 50 x 76 in. (2 panels; 50 x 38 in. each), 2016. Photo courtesy of the artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York

Rachel Perry (b. 1962 in Tokyo, Japan)

Rachel Perry creates everything from sculptures, to photographs, to works on paper, to performances. She uses objects from everyday life to explored how our identities are shaped both by our individual routines and our society as a whole. Perry’s Chiral drawings project began as her attempt to use every single drawing tool she owns - pens, pencils, crayons, colored pencils, markers, and more.

“I scoured each drawer, surface and even the car console for writing implements. Once I had gathered them I decided to limit the expression to the simplest gesture: a line. As the drawing builds, the lines swiftly begin to tremble with a seismic quality, recording the history of the mark making, as well as the history of a household,” she says.

Using both hands to create this particular work, she aimed to make a more “whole” drawing. Hence, the word “chiral” - referring to, she says, a non-superimposable mirror image. “Our hands themselves are an example of chirality. Each set of drawings is an imperfect mirror image, and a suggestion of the impossibility of making the same thing twice.”

Perry has participated in group shows at Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany; The Drawing Center, New York; the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston; and the Beatriz Esguerra Gallery, Bogota, Columbia. She has also held solo shows in Boston and surrounding areas, New York, and New Jersey.

Upcoming Show: The Armory Show, Pier 94, exhibiting with Yancey Richardson, Booth 617, New York (March 3-6)


"Amazon Books" by Daniel Rich, acrylic on Dibond, 59.5 x 72 in., 2013. Photo courtesy of the artist and Peter Blum Gallery

Daniel Rich (b. 1977 in Ulm, Germany)

Daniel Rich translates photographs into paintings that call attention to political and social narratives. "The architectural image is represented in my work to introduce a dialogue about changing political power structures, failed utopias, the impacts of ideological struggles, war, and natural upheavals," he says.

"I am interested in the highly symbolic role architecture plays in politics and its power to function as an icon of our lived experience."

Rich has exhibited his work at The Maramotti Collection in Reggio Emilia, Italy, at Mario Diacono Gallery in Boston and in New York at Peter Blum Gallery, Elizabeth Dee Gallery, and Horton Gallery.

Upcoming Shows: The Armory Fair Pier 94, exhibited by Peter Glum Gallery, Booth 711, New York (March 3-6)
Group show at Anna Marra Contemporary, Rome (June, 2016)


“Shooting Skies” by Daniela Rivera, oil on board, 5 x 25 ft., 2014. Photo courtesy of artist

Daniela Rivera (b. 1973 in Santiago, Chile)

Daniela Rivera describes herself as “a part and symptom of blurry cultural boundaries, and a scenario of vernacular appropriations and cannibalization.”

She addresses political history, art history, and personal history in her works, and aims “to generate an open-ended conversation among viewer, artist, and subject.” Her paintings, she says, are usually site specific and react to the spaces of exhibition. Rivera recreates utilitarian uses of painting to make painting perform as the space, and ask the body to assume the role of the figure of the painting.

“Painting becomes in my work a tool for staging and generating a physical experience that present an opportunity to locate understanding back in the body. On the other hand, I use as a strategy the control of the discipline of painting in an attempt to claim ownership of a tradition and its history, positioning my work within a specific genealogy.”

Rivera has exhibited across New England and in Chile, Peru, Mexico, and Costa Rica.

Upcoming Show:

Solo show at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (coming March 2017)


Untitled (Self Portrait) by Nikki Rosato, hand cut road map, 16 x 16 x 14 in., 2013. Photo courtesy of the artist

Nikki Rosato (b. 1986 in New York City)

Based in Washington, DC, Nikki Rosato is inspired by the remarkable, human-like visual aspects of a roadmap. A map, as she describes, is a symbol of living beings, and the land is “just as alive as we are.”

“As we move through life, the places we inhabit and the people that we meet alter and shape us into the people that we are in the present day. I am interested in the idea that a place I visited as a child has affected the outcome of the person that I am today.”

Rosato explores the complexities of human relationships and our relationships, the “love affairs,” we have with places. “I find inspiration in how we map our own personal space and how those lines become blurred and modified when we form relationships with others.”

Rosato’s work has been exhibited in LA, New York, Boston, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and Denmark, among other places.

Upcoming Shows:

Demarcate: Territorial Shift in Personal and Societal Mapping, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, California (through May 29, 2016)


"Endangered Birds" by Juan Travieso, acrylic on panel, 30 x 30 in., 2015. Photo courtesy of the artist


Juan Travieso (b. 1987 in Havana, Cuba)

The ideas behind Juan Travieso’s paintings stem from narratives from around the world. “I play with the arrangement and juxtaposition to achieve new solutions,” he explains. “My style and my subject matter are distinct elements and will hopefully differentiate me from every other painter before me, and those who will come after me.”

His work is always done in series because he aims to take his ideas to great lengths, a process that he admits allows him to make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and become immersed in subject matter.

“In my ongoing series of ‘Endangered Birds,’ I realized after two years of painting that the message of these pieces would be expressed through power in numbers. The more different species I painted, the more the audience would understand the great value of their loss.”

Travieso’s work has been exhibited in New York, Miami, Boston, Los Angeles, and Australia, and is included in multiple collections throughout the United States and other parts of the world.   

Upcoming Show:

SCOPE New York, exhibited by Jenn Singer Gallery (March 3-6)

BACK TO TOP