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Back in New York from 19 to 22 may, 1-54 Art Fair hosts over 25 galleries from around the world. Here are 5 artists you should not miss.

1-54 art fair is back in New York for the first time since 2019 ! With over 25 exhibitors, including a roster of NY galleries. To celebrate the return edition, Diptyk has selected a few stand-outs from around the globe. Tucked behind the Neo-Gothic façade of historic Harlem Parish church – where the fair stands this year – awaits an incredible diversity of expression as well as geography. From the healing compassion of Wonder Buhle Mbambo (b. 1989, South Africa) to Johanna Mirabel (b. 1991, France) and her expressionistic interiors that speak of inner landscape and environmentalism. Prince Gyasi (b. 1995, Ghana) celebrates black skin and the optimism of pure color with his saturated images of Accra, while Elias Mun’gora (b. 1992, Kenya) explores the possibility of community in the urban, post-Covid chaos of Nairobi. Searching for solace and yes, why not, exuberance in an era of uncertainty. An exuberance that flows freely through the works of Dindga McCannon (b. 1947, USA), a third-generation Harlemite and pioneer of the female Black Arts Movement.

WonderBuhle Mbambo, Angihluphekile Angixakekile, 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 222 x 160 cm. Courtesy of BKhz Gallery.

First, you should stop by BKhz Gallery to see Wonder Buhle Mbambo and his 222 x 160cm work Angihluphekile Angixakekile (2020). Three figures float across the canvas against a blue-sky ground studded with Mbambo’s leitmotif star-flowers, which also wrap around the skin of his subjects, becoming luminescent against the deeper pigment. The boy in the middle is missing the top of his head, as the celestial atmosphere gives way to surrealism. A nod to a young mind opening up to infinite possibility, perhaps.

Johanna Mirabel, Living Room n°14, 2022, Oil on canvas, 205 x 220 cm. Courtesy of Galerie Véronique Rieffel.

Winner of the 2022 Ritzau Prize is Johanna Mirabel, a French artist of Guyanese and Caribbean descent (Véronique Rieffel Gallery). The visual language of Living Room n°14 (2022) is multiple, a reflection of her own diverse heritage. The texture of faded jeans gives way to naked skin, delicately detailed floorboards vanish beneath the furniture, and barely-expressed pots hold lush house plants. From glaze to blank canvas to rich detail, the dynamic surface of the canvas speaks of complex situations and overlapping realities.

Prince Gyasi, SEEDS, 2020, Photograph, 46 x 61 cm, Edition of 10. Courtesy of Nil Gallery.

We love the relaxed confidence of Prince Gyasi (b. 1995), who began his stellar career with nothing but his iPhone. SEEDS (2020) is a riot of pink, red and blue. Eager to share his synesthetic perceptions with others, Gyasi blurs the line between painting and photography, enhancing rich color to the point of emotional response. Wildly optimistic and anti-elitist, this artist believes in the color’s power to spread happiness, and we agree.

Elias Mung’ora, A Grasp for Little Things, 2021, Acrylic and phototransfer on canvas, 180 x130 cm. Courtesy of Montague Contemporary.

At Montague Contemporary, Elias Mung’ora peels away the layers of urban landscape in his acrylic and phototransfer works set in downtown Nairobi. Portraits of a city’s inhabitants and the social inequities that confront them, but also of the (hi)stories that cling to its streets. Color explodes in his large-format painting, A Grasp for Little Things (2021), but underneath the vibrancy is a documentarist approach, a Hopper-esque vision of individuals captured in a moment of self-reflection.

Dindga McCannon, Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth-Warriors, 2021, Acrylic on canvas, 121.9 x 121.9 cm. Courtesy of Fridman Gallery.

Our silver-haired crush is Dindga McCannon (Fridman Gallery), standard-bearer of 1970’s American black women’s movements and a former student of Jacob Lawrence at NY’s iconic Art Students League. McCannon continues to reinvent herself through various media, telling stories about community and remembering histories. In Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth-Warriors (2021), she applies her patchwork techniques to acrylic on canvas, using silhouette, cut-out and color-block to celebrate two of her (and our) heroines.

Kristi Jones

1-54 Art Fair New York, 19–22 May 2022, Harlem Parish – NYC

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