New American Paintings/Blog

Who is the most significant painter to emerge since 2000? (Poll) by New American Paintings

So you don’t believe in miracles? Think about this: Painting has been pronounced clinically dead dozens of times, and, like Lazarus, it keeps coming back for more. It is the medium that simply refuses to die.

The 1990s were a tough decade for painting, as video, installation, and, in particular, photography, relegated it to the margins of the art world’s often too narrow field of vision. But as the 2000s began, the oldest of mediums returned with a vengeance. Impressively, it has continued to be the dominant medium for more than a decade, first with an explosion of figurative work in the early 2000s, and now with an extreme focus on abstraction.

Topics like this often start as debates in the New American Paintings office, and thanks to the blog, we can “take it to the streets” and settle some scores…There are a number of significant artists who have emerged since 2000, and we want to know which ones you think are the most significant. We consciously avoided artists who already had long careers, but have only recently “blown up”: Luc Tuymans, Amy Sillman, Mary Heilmann, Glenn Ligon and Thomas Nozkowski, among them.

We want to hear from you! The twelve painters listed below do not constitute an all-inclusive list, so feel free to add any names that you think we have missed in the comments section below.

Here is our list, and be sure to learn more about each and vote after the jump!

Richard Aldrich
Tauba Auerbach
Mark Bradford
Joe Bradley
Nicole Eisenman
Mark Grotjahn
Wade Guyton
Chris Martin
Julie Mehretu
R.H. Quaytman
Sterling Ruby
Dana Schutz

More About the Artists:

Richard Aldrich:
In 2009, art critic Raphael Rubinstein published a highly influential article in Art in America titled: “Provisional Painting.” In it, he addressed the tendency of an increasing number of painters to produce “works that look casual, dashed-off, tentative, unfinished or self-cancelling.” Aldrich is in the thick of the dialog surrounding this type of painting. In a relatively short amount of time, he has produced a significant body of work that has led to a solo show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and inclusion in the 2010 Whitney Biennial.

Tauba Auerbach:
Process is a major issue in current painting practice. As collectors and curators began to take serious interest in the work of artists such as Albert Oehlen and Christopher Wool in the late 1990s, a younger generation of artists also took notice. Auerbach emerged with a bang after her solo debut at Deitch Projects in 2006. Her work relentlessly questions flatness, three-dimensionality, and the space – both physical and conceptual – that lies in between the two.

Mark Bradford:
Since graduating from the California Institute of the Arts in 1997, Bradford has been on a roll. To produce his large-scale paintings/collages, Bradford utilizes found objects that he scavenges from the street. The finished works address a range of issues, both personal and universal. Since the mid-2000s, Bradford’s work has been exhibited widely, including solo shows at The Studio Museum in Harlem, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, and The Whitney Museum of American Art.

Joe Bradley:
Bradley is nothing if not mercurial. There was already a lot of buzz about Bradley, but his appearance in the 2008 Whitney Biennial, where he showed his “robot paintings,” pushed things into overdrive. After being nurtured by the scrappy Canada gallery in New York for several years, Bradley has gone on to have representation from Gavin Brown, Eva Presenhuber and Javier Peres – three of the hottest galleries in the planet. Just when collectors were getting crazy for his “robots,” Bradley took a left turn and presented his spare and off beat “Schmagoo” paintings that seemed to come from a different artist entirely. 2011 saw simultaneous solo shows at Canada, where he presented his “Egyptian” paintings and Gavin Brown’s, where he presented “Foot and Mouth” paintings.

Nicole Eisenman:
To say that Eisenman has emerged since 2000 might be stretch, after all she was included in Klaus Kertess’ much loved 2005 Whitney Biennial. But it was really in the early 2000s, with the explosion of interest in figurative painting, that her work came to wide attention. Eisenman is an extraordinary draughtsman, whose psychologically probing body of work places her among the great figurative painters of her generation. She was just included in the 2012 Whitney Biennial.

Wade Guyton:
Guyton is another artist who is deeply vested in process. Using Epson inkjet printers and flatbed scanners, he has developed a unique pictorial vocabulary, of which the color black and the letter X are signature motifs. His evolving body of work evidences a constant struggle between the machine-made and the handmade. Guyton is also involved in a highly regarded collaboration with his longtime friend, Kelley Walker.

Mark Grotjahn:
Grotjahn’s pictorial language was being formed in the 1990s. Since 2000, his “Butterfly” paintings have become one of the best-known bodies of work by any living artist, and in 2006 he was the focus of a solo show at The Whitney Museum of American Art. Grotjahn’s work draws from art history, in particular Renaissance perspectival techniques, but it is the careful balance of the rigorous systems he explores and intuitive process that makes his work great. In recent years, Grotjahn has introduced his “Face Paintings,” which are compositionally based on simple forms, but aggressively built layer upon layer.

Chris Martin:
Martin is another artist who, it can be argued, may have emerged before 2000; after all, his work has been frequently exhibited since the late 1980s. Until recently though, Martin was really an artist’s artist. As abstract painting began to (re)gain traction after 2005, Martin’s suddenly seemed very much of its time. His work is often related to that of artists such as Raul de Keyser, Thomas Nozkowski, Andrew Masullo and Mary Heilmann – all artists who are deeply involved with form and color – but Martin literally takes things to an entirely different scale with his massive canvases. He is also completely fearless when it comes to the materials he uses, such as glitter and bread.  His affiliation with Mitchell-Innes and Nash has quickly catapulted him to the forefront of his generation of painters, and led to a 2011 solo exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Julie Mehretu:
Mehretu emerged right after 2000 and has since become one of the most respected artists of her generation. He large, and highly complex paintings draw from architecture, mapping, calligraphy and a host of other sources. For many, she is responsible for developing an entirely new compositional strategy – let’s call it the “this is completely out of control, but somehow not” strategy – that legions of younger artists have emulated. Her resume is extensive, and includes a 2010 solo exhibition at the Guggenheim.

R.H. Quaytman:
When your father is Harvey Quaytman, there is a good chance that you will have some artistic chops. Quaytman was a bit of a slow burn though. After completing her formal training in the 1980s, and showing sporadically during the 1990s, Quaytman began to gain attention with the exhibition of “Chapter 1: The Sun” in 2001, and really took off after her 2008 exhibition at Miguel Abreu Gallery in New York. Quaytman makes, intimate, highly philosophical works that are visually alluring and conceptually deep. Like other artists in this poll, she is very involved with process.

Sterling Ruby:
Like some of the other artists in this poll, Ruby works with a variety of media, although painting is central to his process. A graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2003, Ruby’s multi-disciplinary approach has led Roberta Smith to call him “one of the most interesting artists to emerge this century.” Spray paint is Ruby’s primary medium when it some to painting, and, to some extent, he is responsible for domesticating a medium that was long considered to belong on the street. For a young artist, his exhibition record is massive, although he recently parted ways with Pace Gallery.

Dana Schutz:
Schutz is the poster girl for the explosion of interest in figurative painting that occurred in the early 2000s. She graduated from Columbia University in 2002, and her career quickly took off, after a show at LFL Gallery (now Zach Feuer), which garnered rave reviews from the likes of Jerry Saltz. By 2006, Schutz had a full museum show at the Rose Art Museum, which traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, and her large painting, “Presentation,” was on display at MOMA. She is a fearless colorist, whose paintings speak equally about contemporary experience and their own facture. Her influence on a youb=nger generation of artists cannot be overstated.


35 Comments so far
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Eddie Martinez gets my vote. I love that he dropped out of school and he’s not about strategy or theory. A lot of the painters above seem post post-modern or mfa academic or however you want to phrase it.

Comment by Duane Thomas

We love Eddie Martinez’s work; he was actually on an expanded list that also included Keltie Ferris and Josh Smith, among others, but we drew the line at twelve artists. All three of these artists emerged in the latter part of the 2000s, and I expect, will be in the thick on things for years to come.


Comment by New American Paintings

Why limit to 12?

Comment by Jeffrey Chiedo

Christian Hellmich. He is significant not because he’s having tons of shows or because he’s influential, but because his paintings are the best.

Comment by joe lloyd

All these people suck in my opinion. I guess I will change the word I use to describe what I do, if this is what people consider “art”. Posers – that’s what it looks like to me.

Comment by denvercan

you must not have any true understanding of art if you would discount this list. If you have a counter opinion please provide some support.

Comment by Dennis

And yet you offer no artists to counter, why? Just name a few and we can have a dialog.

Comment by nuffer

A pretty nice list (Some of my favorites), but I would add Josh Smith, Amy Sillman, Tomory Dodge, Allison Schulnik, Angel Otero and Keltie Ferris to the list

Comment by Dennis

Nice additions…Of yours, who would get the vote and why? Or would you stick to someone on the list provided?

Comment by New American Paintings

That’s a tough call, but I would lean toward Guyton, becasue I believe he really transforms painting in a very rare and influential way. Obviously it’s hard to argue with Schutz’s influence upon figurative painting,or Schulnik’s influence upon the material approach to painting. With all that said, I have to go with Josh Smith, because I like that he does for abstraction what Andy Warhol did for the pop image.

Comment by Dennis

I love all of this painting talk!!!
I think the list is good but asking a fundamentally difficult question.
Painting has undergone such a profound transformation both over the past century and then continually, over every subsequent decade. Thinking about painting now, it isn’t enough to consider the artist’s relationship to warhol, which prior to say 1990 or 2000 was certainly an important metric for evaluating an artists relationship to “advanced” or “critical” painting. Now, I really think there has been such a kind of polymorphous explosion, that we can’t identify a single voice by which to gauge all others. I mean Richter is an important yardstick – not for quality – but for USING painting as a way of thinking. What I love most about this list though is that it really appears to understand that contemporary painting is a very shifting and ambiguous activity. To that effect, Chris Martin and RH Quaytman get my votes. I don’t really think i can choose between the two because they are so disparate, it’s like comparing grapefruits and gooselivers…. you can eat both!

Re: all the talk about alison schulnik – she’s a great painter – hands down – but i don’t think she is engaged in a fundamental transformation of the activity of painting – see Sam Messer’s paintings and joan brown”s and others. but those come to mind right away.

Sorry for the ramble, but this is like a dream conversation for me.

Comment by Alexander

rosson crowe, jules de balincourt, kristin baker, barnaby furnas, tomokazu matsuyama, neo rausch…what i like about all of them is they hover between abstraction and figuration, and that in between space there’s still a lot of new territory that all of these artists are exploring in a really exciting way, theyre not my favorite, but i think they’ve made a significant impact in the last 10 years.

Comment by Jonathan

yea…that’s a good list! Definitely think Baker and Furnas have had a very big influence and their wok continues to grow and develop in very interesting ways. Crow has similarly made a big impact, but Rauch is by far the most influential of that bunch and when it comes to impact upon painters, critics, curators and such, he’s right up there with Schutz and Guyton…..If Guyton’s in the list, then Kelley Walker probably needs to be on the list as well.

Comment by Dennis

ive never heard of wade guyton, can someone enlighten me why he’s on the top…i hate to be a hater, but it seems like a few copy and pastes in photoshop, quite boring, maybe its just too minimal for me, i find stuff like this far more interesting:

Comment by Jonathan

You might like this article…

Comment by Duane Thomas

I didn’t wanto to like Guyton at first, but the work is so conceptually grounded that it has much more substance than merely being an image or a painting. It deals with the very nature of painting and in some sense achieves an iconography and mythical status all its own. Traditionalists would have a hard time even calling him a painter, but like Quaytman who mostly prints her images, its about how their process transforms painting and moves it forward not necessarily how it is grounded in older more established notions of painting.

Comment by Dennis

and chris martin, hate to be a critic again, but sometimes out of boredom i type in ‘abstract art’ in google, and i come across some house wife’s blog and her weekend attempts at painting and i see something like this, or else you can type in abstract in ebay and find home decorative abstract work of very much the same ilk. sorry just doesnt seem to be breaking much territory for me….

Comment by Jonathan

I actually like everyone on the list for different reasons, but Chris Martin is the man! He’s written some great articles about Alfred Jensen (for the brooklyn rail) which shed a lot of light on his approach to painting. I personally hated his work at first, but I always liked him – so I started to look for elements of him in the work and I started liking the work because I recognized that it came from a deeply felt personal space and really refleced its maker. It is outsider like and crafty kitschy on a certain level, but it is also uncompromising, raw and real on a level that you don’t find in a lot of painting today. Right now I think he yields a lot of influence with a younger generation of painters who are finding their own voices as painters.

Comment by Dennis

I love all these artists but one does not rise above the others.

Comment by Kitty

I am not voting for one painter only…..contests only extend the idea of the ‘mountain peak’ point of view—Several of these painters please my eye for different reasons

Comment by gilda

John Currin has to be on the list. The 12 painters listed above reflect the narrow minded view of New American Paintings. I stopped subscribing because, despite the different curators, every issue is very predictable and repetitive. I will see illustrations of animals or figures with a white background, a painting or two of a house on stilts, and a wall mounted sculpture as some kind of painting critique.

Comment by joe lloyd

Currin is not predictable?

Comment by jack

Andrew Guenther, Mickaline Thomas…

Comment by Jeffrey Chiedo

What about Jim Lee, Wendy White, Andrew Guenther, Mickalene Thomas, Andrzej Zielinski, Kadar Brock, Evan Nesbit While not necessarily household names, have mostly gotten off the square and are pushing paint beyond confines of expectations.

Comment by Jeffrey Chiedo

Serge Jensen seems to be missing for me. Maybe Amanda Ross-Ho too?
Top notch list though.They are all really great painters you guys chose.

Comment by jason

peter gallo really reinvented the kuntsbrigade for me in 2005

Comment by Brian Jones

Steve Roden has an interesting take on contemporary painting. Hard to pin down just 12 influential painters since the start of the century. Some resonate more than others depending on who is viewing what and when.

Comment by Maurice Thibideaux

The list is a wee bit market-driven and only time will tell who, if any, will be considered influential in the decades ahead. Historical context is everything in determining influence.

Comment by Cristina

I would include Ann Craven. She is terrifically talented, prolific, and unique.

Comment by Conor Thompson

Kati Heck ,TAL R, Anton Henning, Laura Owens, Pietro Roccasalva, Tala Madani, Andro Wekua, Wilhelm Sasnal, Paulina Olowska

Comment by M

andre butzer

Comment by radomir djukanović

not many women up there… so predictable.

Comment by hayley

I’m far from an expert on painters, but Mark Bradford gets my vote. It seems to me the most accesible, abstract, and modern of the bunch.

Comment by William Cubbon

Neo Rauch, Fred Tomaselli, Hernan Bas, Julie Heffernan…..

Comment by Gala Scibelli

Ian Francis, Aaron Morse, Sharon Horvath, Chloe Early, Khaled Hafez, Ged Quinn, Nicholas Bohac, Jiha Moon…. all really good

Comment by Gala Scibelli

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