June 14, 2024
Art Gallery

5 Standout Shows to See at Small Galleries in June 2024

In this monthly roundup, we shine the spotlight on five stellar exhibitions taking place at small and rising galleries worldwide.

An MFA graduate of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art, Hungarian artist Kinga Bartis is currently presenting her debut Paris exhibition, “In a one,” at Galerie Marguo. The show features 12 new paintings conceived in the last five months as she’s traveled back and forth between Paris and her home in Copenhagen. These works span from expansive canvases to smaller, intimate pieces. Each painting renders its figures amid dreamlike landscapes awash with vivid, fiery colors.

A standout work is Brave are the tiny stones sleeping in wild rivers (2024), a 6.5-by-10-foot blue oil painting portraying two sleeping figures beneath two anthropomorphic trees adorned with a bright red canopy. Often, Bartis merges her subjects’ body parts into the natural landscapes: A hand morphs into tree roots while birds appear to soar out of swirling, cloud-filled skies. This approach, where she embeds the human body into landscapes, creates a dialogue regarding our place in nature.

It wasn’t until 1997, when a book about quilting fell into the hands of Guatemalan artist Priscilla Bianchi, that she fully devoted herself to the textile technique. A home seamstress for nearly 40 years, Bianchi worked day jobs as a preschool teacher and later as an industrial psychologist before retiring to pursue her passion for textile art. Today, her intricate, polychromatic quilts are the spotlight of “The Guatemalan Fabric of My Life” at Monterroso Gallery. “Many thought I had gone mad, but I was fascinated when I realized that art quilts brought together everything that I love: fabrics, colors, sewing, art, design, creating with my hands, and being original,” said Bianchi in an artist bio.

On view across Monterroso’s two Houston-based venues, this exhibition features 12 quilts spanning 25 years of the artist’s career. In them, Bianchi stitches symbols of her Mayan heritage to pay homage to her culture and personal identity. With a keen eye for color and expert use of traditional and modern textile techniques, Bianchi creates stunning kaleidoscopic textiles that demonstrate her focus on identity, tradition, and renewal.

After graduating from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, Ermias Ekube founded his own school, the Asmara School of the Arts, in Eritrea in 1994, where he mentored young artists despite growing censorship in the country. However, in 2012, the artist fled Eritrea to escape stringent government restrictions, relocating to Västervik, Sweden, to pursue his painting career. Perennially interested in the mental experience of the human condition, Ermias has championed painting as a way to explore human psychology, particularly focusing on self-perception and vanity.

At Ed Cross Fine Art in London, Ekube’s exhibition “Memories are we are memories” uses mirrors as a motif to interrogate the impact of perception and memory on identity. This collection of new works features obscured figures in domestic settings, each holding a mirror that reflects empty spaces. Memories are we are memories #23 (2024) features an hourglass in an empty room. In other works, he captures faceless individuals holding mirrors towards the viewer—symbolizing the fleeting and often distorted nature of memories.

Olaf Hajek’s inaugural solo exhibition in China, “The Marriage of Flowers in the Mirror,” takes its title from the 1827 fantasy romance novel by Chinese author Li Ruzhen, which is set in an idealized world where women lead and gender roles are subverted. This allegory provides an evocative backdrop for Hajek’s 30 works on wood panels. In each kaleidoscopic piece—such as Wirres Gefühl (2023), a portrait of a woman swarmed by birds and butterflies—Hajek crafts a visual narrative that places its subjects amid a fantastical rendering of nature.

Hajek first pursued graphic design before pivoting to illustration, studying alongside punk fashion legend Vivienne Westwood. Now a celebrated illustrator, his work has been featured in publications like the New York Times and The New Yorker. These experiences have helped Hajek develop an eye for color, which he employs to retell mythologies in his paintings, ensuring these works convey a psychedelic experience.

Jane Yang-D’Haene’s handcrafted stoneware vessels are often inspired by the dal hangari, or traditional Korean moon jar. Her exhibition “In Memory of Memory” at Mindy Solomon Gallery pushes beyond the boundaries of the traditional ceramic technique. Departing from the smooth white exteriors usually seen on moon jars, her work features frenetic paintings, reptilian ornamentations, and intentionally distorted exteriors, as seen in works like Untitled XIII (2024), a green-glazed vessel that has collapsed in from the top.

Yang-D’Haene initially studied architecture at the Cooper Union before working as an interior designer. On a whim, in 2016, the then-36-year-old artist decided to pick up ceramics, andquickly began playing with the possibilities of the medium. Now, at 40, the artist has honed her experimental approach to ceramics for her debut exhibition in Miami, breathing new life into an ancient art form.

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