RETNA_ESQUIREWords by David Wilfert

1. George Condo

It seems that everywhere you look these days you see work by George Condo, and Art Basel is no exception. Six galleries in total are showing the work of this New York-based artist. Thanks in part to Kanye West having the good taste to select him as the cover artist for his most recent album, alongside collaborations with Supreme and Adam Kimmel, plus an upcoming 25 year retrospective at the New Museum, the painter and sculptor is definitely having a moment. All of these facts just lead to one revelation: Forget about buying a condo — buy a Condo.

2. Kehinde Wiley

For the first time Kehinde Wiley has painted a different shade of brown. And no, it’s not his equestrian portrait of Michael Jackson. Showing at the booth of Chicago gallerist Rhona Hoffman are three paintings from Wiley’s latest series, “The World Stage: India-Sri Lanka”.  The works are a refreshing step forward from his traditional African American subjects. But just in case you can’t get enough of those works he’s been known for, the massive twenty-five-foot-long Femme Piquee Par Un Serpent (2008) is on view (and for sale) at another booth just around the corner.

3. Retna
Across the bay from Miami Beach, in the Design District, is a solo show by Los Angeles-based artist Retna, also known as Marquis Lewis. Retna transforms the Primary Projects gallery space into what can be seen as both an installation and autonomous body of work. Referencing his work in graffiti, Retna displays a style of calligraphy on all surfaces, leaving only the raw ceiling untouched. No wonder Jeffrey Deitch compares him to Keith Haring.

4. Barry McGee
No list of best artists could be complete without Barry McGee, the king of cluster groupings.  With a background in graffiti, the legendary San Francisco artist has been an influence on countless artists and art handlers. Working in total mixed media, McGee’s fine-tooth, ballpoint-pen drawings juxtapose seamlessly in the radical and eye-catching multi-element installs that consist of many pieces to make just one.  Showing at both Ratio 3 and Roberts & Tilton, Barry McGee’s work will easily stand the test of time. Look out for an upcoming monograph in 2011 and a retrospective in 2012.

5. Tony Curanaj
Painting in oil like a true master, Tony Curanaj makes works that feel so real that, from a glance, you might second-guess yourself. Yes, that is all paint. Working with contemporary subject matter, the New York-based painter has been steadily gaining momentum — most recently he was commissioned by George Lucas to paint a portrait of a Tusken Raider for his book, Star Wars Art: Visions. Never one to take the easy way out, Curanaj paints strictly from life, and individual works can take months to create. On view at Joshua Liner Gallery’s booth at Scope are five of his recent works. One of which the artist brought down himself, just to ensure that he had enough time to make it perfect.


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