The 10 Most Inspiring Young Artists In NYC Right Now

If you give two hoots about art and culture (and if you're reading this, we'll assume you do), then you know we've written about up-and coming artists before — those intriguing, often unconventional visionaries who are new (or newish) to the scene and well worth investing in before their work costs more than a down payment on an NYC loft. But while it can take many (many) decades for an artist to reach public awareness and gain the respect of their peers, we're not waiting around.
We've gone out into the streets and studios of New York City and Brooklyn to find out who is making the work that startles us, makes our hearts soar, and even makes us stare and simply wonder. These creatives aren't just painters, either. They're craftspeople, animators, inventors, and imaginarians. The kind of Very Important People we want to know — and, you do, too. We did the research, hunkered down with gallerists, and talked to other artists about these artists…. Now, it's time to get to know the 10 NYC-based artists who really matter…who might just blow your mind.
Photographed by Tom Hines.
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The youngest member of this crew, Legacy Russell might also be the one with the busiest schedule. In fact, her Google Calendar might break from time to time due to information overload. When she was working at the Whitney after college, she founded Contact Project, a place for artists to "talk about why they make work and why it's valuable to them." She's now an art editor at BOMB magazine's online space BOMBlog, and, at the same time, she's working on a year-long series of installations around lower Manhattan called Open Ceremony. This spring will mark the third chapter of that project, in which she will post large-scale posters in, say, the West Village, of images taken of New Yorkers who live in, say, the East Village.

"I'm looking at our geographies and how patterns can be shaken up just by re-arranging things using format of portraiture," she says. "I'm also interested in how the artist can redefine the studio. Is he sitting by himself in a box and making stuff or are people going into public spaces? I would say outside in the world is a major part of my expanded 'studio'." Tired yet? She's also working on commissions for various collectors, and she's been asked to curate an exhibition and performance at Bryant Park's New York Public Library. "I'm hopefully going to have working dancers do a performance on roller skates," she says. "It's a beautiful building and an epic space. It would be fun to bring some disco culture into it."

Click through to see more of Legacy Russell's work.

Photographed by Tom Hines.
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Sam Wheeler and Constantino (Dino) Siampos met working on window displays for Barneys, toured together as part of the band Soft for a few years, and then "we had to grow up," says Wheeler. They founded Aux Armes, their company that creates imaginative window and interior displays, and soon they had a roster of high-end clients: Hermès, Rosa Cha, DVF, Jill Stuart, Steven Alan, Vince, Valentino, Rachel Antonoff, Madewell, and, of course, Barneys New York. (Remember those Men's Vogue and orange string sculptures?) The duo does a lot in the Brooklyn workshop they share with Square Design and Chavez Design, but they spend a good amount of time tweaking as they install their work behind that shiny street-front glass.

"Each window can't offer the same thing," says Siampos. "We often run across the street to look at the larger perspective and make sure that our story has been carried through properly." Do they have a signature? "There isn't a look, but there is a sense of complexity in the idea," says Wheeler. "There have to be multiple layers of reference." Next up: This summer Wheeler and Siampos, along with Portable TV, will launch a men's lifestyle service called Svbscription. (The kinks aren't all worked out yet, but the general idea is that for $100/month, the crew will mail you packages full of hand-selected products.) Stay tuned.

Click through to see more of Aux Armes' work.

Photographed by Tom Hines.
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Francesca DiMattio is New York through and through. She was born here, raised here, went to Columbia and then Cooper Union, and she lives here now with her husband, artist Garth Weiser. And, of course, she shows her work here, currently in Table Setting and Flower Arranging at Salon94. "I was thinking a lot about domestic activities, like flower arranging and setting a table, sewing and quilt-making," she said. "I was trying to take them out of domestic surroundings and re-present them in an unfamiliar, primary way." An example: her 8-foot totem made out of a mash-up of porcelain vases. DiMattio learned everything she could in a year about ceramics so that she could reference French Rococo china and merge it with unfinished, un-polished clay pots that look "as if a kid got a hold of glaze and just started pouring them all on at once." The magic is in that mix: "These two things co-exist. The glaze from one will drop onto the other. They affect one another. Nothing stays un-bothered." (Special nod from another artist on this list, Amelia Bauer: "Those sculptures give me tingles.")

As for the famous braided updo, yes, she's still wearing her hair like that. "You could, of course, look to Frida Kahlo and Mexican hairstyles but also German and Russian and African cultures," she says. "They all interest me."

Click through to see more of Francesca DiMattio's work.

Photographed by Tom Hines.
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Jenna Gribbon is soft spoken but not shy, youthful in her Peter Pan-collared dress, yet still very much a lady. Chatting with her in her members-only salon, The Oracle Club, she seems like the long-lost Tenenbaum sister. Gribbon and her partner, writer Julian Tepper, came up with the idea for the club last October and, after a whirlwind two months of re-upholstering flea market finds and taking on DIY projects like antiquing mirrors, they opened it in December. (She and Tepper also appeared as themselves in the latest episode of Gossip Girl, mentoring Blair and Dan in opening their own salon.) Located in Long Island City, the Oracle Club is meant as a workspace for artists and writers, and it boasts a studio, a library, a living room, and a dreamy record collection that ranges from Kris Kristofferson and Tammy Wynette to classical Indian ragas and Turkish psychedelic music. As for Gribbon's own paintings, her sensibility leans toward romanticism, "but I can never resist messing it up a little," she says. "I like for them to feel like being in someone's waking headspace." Disembodied figures share a canvas with photographic and symbolic elements. "That's the way images are in our heads." Her next project, potentially titled "Ode to an Autonomous Woman," is a response to her experience of motherhood. (Gribbon has a 15-month-old son.) "It's a look back across the fence at life before."

A special note about Gribbon: She's one of the few super-talented painters doing commissioned portraits. "In the art world, you sell something and you don't know if it's going to make it onto the wall," she says. "But this will be a part of someone's life — you know the painting will be treasured and passed through the family." This is coming from the woman who painted all of the period portraits in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, by the way.

Click through to see more of Jenna Gribbon's work.

Photographed by Tom Hines.
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Born in Tokyo, Yui Kugimiya grew up attending a girls' school by day and playing in a band at night — and she had both the private school uniform and the butchered black mohawk to prove it. That kind of discordance can be seen today in her paintings and stop-motion animations, some of which play home to signature cat (imaginary) and bird (modeled after her childhood pet finch) characters and all of which are meant to magnify "what may be behind the surface of what we can see." For example, last year's earthquake and tsunami in Japan. "The major damage it caused revealed many underlying issues that always existed," she says, "but we never paid close enough attention to [them] in our normal pre-earthquake life."

Kugimiya's work hangs in New York's MoMA and the Sagamore Collection in Miami, and she's currently pulling together some pieces for a solo show in at Galeria Enrique Guerrero in Mexico City this fall.

Click through to see more of Yui Kugimiya's work.

Photographed by Tom Hines.
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Although her fine art photography is her first love, Anna Moller makes no bones about being, in part, a commercial photographer. She's done promotional work for Loeffler Randall and, the day after we talked to her, she was off to shoot for a children's clothing line. "Kids are raw and natural," she says. "They don't have the cognition that adults have, so they're not stiff. And you can see it in them — that emotional pull. I hope that translates." Even on those kinds of work days, Moller shoots film — no digital stuff here — because she says it reads light better and because "you can't keep checking that display on the screen, so you have to go with intuition." As for her other work, she showed a series of landscapes shot in Sweden at New York's Wild Project Gallery, and a few years ago, she was awarded the Honorable Mention for "Best Fine Art Image" in the New York Photo Festival. Also, for the past two fashion seasons, Another Magazine has thrown her in the backstage ring to shoot Alexander Wang, Thakoon, Richard Chai, and Y3. "There are so many things moving at once and also — holy crap! — people are so serious," she says. "High fashion is exhilarating." (We'll admit, we're a little surprised this tall, lithe beauty wasn't mistaken for a model and thrown onto the catwalk.)

Whether it's DVF's spring collection or scenes from her hometown of Rowayton, CT, Moller wants to leave an emotional impression with her photographs. "I want people to feel connected," she says. "I want them to think, 'I belong to something, and something belongs to me.'"

Click through to see more of Anna Moller's work.

Photographed by Tom Hines.
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Wardell Milan is a buff, Tennessee-born Yalie with a penchant for fashion. The characters in his work — mainly collages and photographs — range from Prada spring '11 models to Madonna to himself. When he was the director of scanning at Box Studios, he would see Annie's Leibowitz's and Steven Klein's contact sheets. "There was all this raw material," he says. "I saw how they worked with it until it became a page in a magazine." Now he uses those pages — Fantastic Man, Acne Paper, and the Gentle Woman are favorites — for his own work. The aforementioned photos are taken of elaborate 3D dioramas — weird mini worlds he creates with Pam Anderson, Naomi Campbell, fetishes, drag races… "I like collapsing time and creating a space in which people exist together who normally wouldn't," he says.

He's currently working on drawings of tulips and body builders ("I'm interested in strength and power and how they are faulty") and preparing for a group show in Houston. But he's still most excited about polishing his favorite dioramas.

Click through to see more of Wardell Milan.

Photographed by Tom Hines.
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"I've been thinking about this shadow." This is the kind of thing you'll hear from Jessica Dickinson. Her aim is to take "the minor events on the side of life and make them into major events," she says. "I'm not a complete Luddite, but I do get — and we get — overwhelmed with a lot of information. The media is saturated with images, but when a slow something happens in the corner, we don't see it. I'm trying to bring attention to that thing." Go to her studio and you'll see that Dickinson only uses an 8x8-foot square of it to paint in. In the rest of the space, her work hangs on the walls, or is stapled to the floor for observation or for picking. Yes, picking. Dickinson painstakingly hand-paints concentric circles on a canvas and paints over it. Then she'll crack open the canvas and re-plaster it together. Then she'll pick at it, walk on it maybe, leave holes in it. All of this can take upward of a year, so that "each painting goes through a series of events."

Dickinson, who was a guard at the Met when she first moved to New York in 1999, now teaches at RISD and is preparing for a show in Madrid. "I want people to walk away with a slowed down experience."

Click through to see more of Jessica Dickinson's work.

Photographed by Tom Hines.
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Where to begin with Hisham Bharoocha? His neon collages look like they were commissioned by Nicki Minaj's even-wackier-if-you-can-believe-it cousin; a big player in New York's underground music scene, he'll release a new album with his band Soft Circle this summer, and he has some Japan tour dates set up with his other project, the Boredoms, this May; he's the creative director for a sunglass line called PHOSPHORESCENCE, which is known for its collaborations with the likes of designer Maria Cornejo, Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, and model Erin Wasson, to name a few. (To be released this summer, designs by Tess Giberson and the ladies of Vena Cava.)

Yes, the Japanese-Burmese artist has been in the States — and busy — ever since he started at RISD in 1994. "I am for some reason always excited by being overwhelmed," he says. "I try to make work that overwhelms me visually. I guess I'm just trying to express my excitement about life on this planet we live on." Did we mention he also has some textile projects brewing? He's created patterns for ASOS and T-shirts for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Pantha Du Prince, and Blood is the New Black. "We'll see what happens next," he says. We'll be waiting.

Click through to see more of Hisham Bharoocha's work.

Photographed by Tom Hines.
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Amelia Bauer likes to blow things up. She worked with a pyrotechnic crew to make fireworks for her Smoke Signals series of photographs, and for her aptly-named Explosion Pillows, she zeroed in on car explosions from movies like the Godfather and Night of the Living Dead. "We have this fetishizing of violence in our culture," she says. She also gravitates toward landscape photography. "I'm kind of interested in the conflicted American attitude toward landscape — or what I see as American — where it's a space between romanticism of the great outdoors and a deep-seated discomfort or fear of the wild." Bauer's goal is to create work that is "beautiful and intriguing but also kind of unsettling."

Her studio space in Greenpoint is more like a think tank — a place to put up her prints and react to them — than a real work room. It's her home upstate and its garage that offer ample space to work in, "so I can get messy," Bauer says. Otherwise, things really happen on "set," if you can call it that. To get the peephole effect in her Toile Series "we had a ragtag group of assistants, including my friend and my boyfriend, and we carted around a generator in a wheelbarrow along with 4,000-watt lights in upstate New York." Bauer currently has work hanging at New York's Phillips de Pury shop, and she will show at L.A.'s De Soto Gallery the first week of June. Her first-ever animated piece had its debut screening on April 14 as part of Houston's "Universal Backyard Theater" project.

Amelia, sitting in front of her most recent in-progress work, a collaboration with Kate Steciw.

Click through to see more of Amelia Bauer's work.

Photographed by Tom Hines.

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