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20 under 30: Hot, Young Artists to Watch
And last but not least, no list of buzzy young artists would be complete without Ms. Self.
People 28 Feb 2019

It’s common knowledge that an art career takes a long time in the making. Of the very few that ever make it big time, most aren’t even alive to enjoy their success. And even for those that do, recognition usually comes late in life, especially for women and people of color. All in all, success for young artists has been practically unheard of throughout history.
But with new technology comes new opportunity. Social media platforms like Instagram allow young artists and audiences to bypass the traditional museum/gallery network and connect directly. For all the damage that social media is wreaking on the art world, and on our whole society, that’s one huge success worth celebrating.
So we largely have the Internet to thank for access to these amazing young artists. Many of these young artists 30 and under are getting their big breaks far earlier in life than they ever could have in earlier eras. And as for those who haven’t quite hit the mainstream yet, we have social media to thank for having found them in the first place. Without further ado, allow us to present these 20 arty stunners under 30.

1) Emma Czerwinski and Cybelle Corwin

Both well under 25, Emma and Cybelle are the main creative duo (and real-life couple) behind The Messy Heads, an online publication/space/collective of artists. Like so many Millennial and Gen Z artists, they got their start on the Internet, but they’re also very interested in physicality. Lots of the photography on Messy is done on film, and they even just self-released their first print publication with a musical component: Eternal Sleepover, a 380-page book and a 21-track CD.
IG: @by.messy

2) Lucy Brown and Genevieve Andrews

lucy and gen
Another fab, fun and flirty creative duo, Lucy Brown and Genevieve Andrews are twin artists stirring up IG with their lush, flamboyant work. Their IG handle says it all: these ladies are definitely shameless, but in the best way. They’re like a cross between Vine stars, naughty toddlers and Marilyn Minter: completely wild. Bearing that in mind, we’re willing to bet they that won’t stay fameless for long. They recently shot breakout bedroom pop sensation Billie Eilish for Drøme, and together, the twins have a casual 35K IG followers.
Both are artists in their own right—Lucy works in sculpture and Genevieve is a director and photographer. Much of their collaborative work uses oversaturated, Cali-noir imagery to explore topics around sex and gender. I can guarantee that you’ve never seen anything like their antics—and their sexy plastic sculptures—in your life.
IG: @thefamelessandshameless

3) Monica Hernandez

Monica is another young artist who knows how to leverage the power of social media. Her larger-than-life canvases present the girl gaze outside of its usual medium of photography. Honesty, vulnerability and openness are key for the artist in her own work. Originally hailing from the Dominican Republic, she often presents brown bodies engaged in everyday activities—eating, praying, bathing and sleeping.
On her social media profile just like in her paintings, she challenges conventional forms of representation. With 106K followers and counting, we’re pretty sure that her hard work and talent is about to pay off more than ever. And having graduated with her BFA just last year, Monica will definitely be young enough to bask in the warm glow of success for a long, long time.
IG: @monicagreatgal

4) Gabriela Rassi

the influencer
“The Influencer” 2019
One of the youngest artists on our list, Rassi is still in art school, but her work shows sophistication and depth way beyond her years. A bit reminiscent of Juliana Huxtable, in content if not in style, some of Gabriela’s work addresses the Internet. And as part of the generation that has grown up online, she’s quite literally an insider who turn the Internet inside-out, dumping out all of its garishness on the canvas.
IG: @gabrielarassi

5) Olivia Bee

maggie rogers
If you haven’t heard of Olivia Bee yet, you will soon. You’re also a bit behind; the girl has almost 100K followers. A photographer with self-proclaimed “big big feels,” she works across advertising, fashion and art. This might have been unusual a decade or two ago, but these days, the lines between these worlds are dissolving more and more, one snap at a time. So really, there’s nothing unusual about her way of working.
Scroll through her dreamy feed and one picture will jump out at you, especially if you’ve been keeping up with the music scene. Bee recently shot breakout star Maggie Rogers’ first album cover, Heard it in a Past Life. This picture especially, and all of Bee’s work, captures the rising trend of channeling raw, freshly experienced emotion through art. “It’s wild to see something you first experienced intimately with someone you care about with your body and eyes and now it’s all over the world for everyone to experience as well,” she wrote when she shared the album cover on IG. That perfectly sums up the whole spirit of contemporary photography, post-Ryan McGinley (and even post-Nan Goldin), don’t you think?
IG: @oliviabee

6) Kelly Lu

kelly lu
A Japanese artist who grew up in the American South, Lu makes paintings, black ink drawings and digital artwork, much of which explores inner psychology and identity. Her artwork recently graced the cover of Forge Magazine. A girl, representing Lu, drowning in a sea of anonymous alter egos who represent the masks she wore to fit in with a society that would never accept her. And while we all come from different backgrounds, who hasn’t felt like they have to pretend to be 138 different people just to get through the day? In this way, Lu’s work is both highly personalized (the black bob motif comes from her college haircut) and universal.
IG: @kelly_sux (drawings) and @grlsnjazz (photo)

7) Melek Zertal

melek zertal
24-year-old Melek Zertal also knows a thing or two about globe-trotting. Born in Algeria, these days she splits her time between Oakland and Paris, “trashing men one comic at a time,” as her IG bio goes. Her work is sometimes dark, sometimes hilarious, and sometimes both, but it always captures the spirit of the young generation coming of age in this crazy world. Her work also often focuses on the lesbian, queer and trans experience. She also skewers the fashion world in a way that’s downright wicked—who knew you could work Marx and Gucci into the same picture so perfectly?
IG: @melekzertal

8) Coco Gordon Moore

its a hole
It’s A Hole (2017).
If you saw our recent piece on art x music moments, you’ll know that Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth started (and ended) as a visual artist). But did you know that her daughter Coco got the arty gene as well? Given her modeling work, it’s not surprising that her artwork focuses on the way women are seen and represented: “I feel like sometimes I write about my exhaustion of being viewed as a whore or a Madonna, or a victim that has to be saved — just view me as a person and not these different things,” she told Paper Magazine.
Gordon Moore makes drawings, paintings, videos and poems, and she has also made several chapbooks mixing drawings with text, many of which were donated to social advocacy organizations like the Brooklyn Bail Fund. She’s done several shows, and is also pioneering a more financially just way to selling her work. To make her art more accessible and combat the exclusion of women and people of color from the art world, she’s been experimenting with selling her work on a sliding scale. Buyers pay what they can based on their financial situation, and according to Coco, it’s been working well, thank you very much.
IG: @cocogm

9) Paige Strabala

anastasia on couch
Anastasia on Red Couch (2018).
Unlike some of the IG stars on our list, Paige Strabala is a still pretty low-key artist living and working in Southern California. But given the quality of her work, we’re willing to bet that she won’t stay under the radar for long. Working mainly in paint, but also with drawings and visual work, Strabala has developed a distinct style that she applies to her models, including, often, herself.
Vibrant and alive, her style gives us hope for the future of figurative painting. Using mask motifs and the nude body, her often-surreal compositions probe into the nature of identity and the psychological disguises we wear to hide in plain sight. Many of her pictures are of friends and loved ones, and it shows; her treatment of her subjects is as tender and loving as it is probing and intense. Strabala graduated from art school last winter and has been focusing on creating new work ever since, so we’re sure she’s got big things coming at us soon.
IG: @foxnap

10) Alice Joiner

alice joiner
One of my personal longtime favorite girl gaze artists, Alice Joiner caught my eye when I was a college senior looking for an artist to feature in a photography presentation. I discovered her work, of course, on IG. Living and working in London, Joiner is a Girl Gaze ambassador whose pictures deal in raw emotion and intimacy, often between women.
She first took up the camera as a way to work through mental illness and an eating disorder, so much of her early work is painful, familiar territory for anyone that’s been through something similar. But as she’s progressed in her recovery, her photography has taken on brighter tones, celebrating the strong and idiosyncratic community around her.
IG: @alicejoiner

11) Nadine Ijewere

vogue dua lipa
Another Londoner with Nigerian and Jamaican roots, Nadine made history in 2018 when she became the first woman of color to shoot a British Vogue cover. Appropriately, it was the Future Issue, featuring anti-pop star Dua Lipa. Even though she fell in love with fashion photography at an early age, it was always clear to her that she wouldn’t compromise her beliefs and her artistic style for any industry trends, even if it meant not becoming a big name in the industry.
Part of this comes from the way she views her work: in keeping with modern tendencies, she sees herself as primarily an artist, even though she works in fashion. Social media has also been big in her career, helping her find early collaborators, as well as models to work with. Even at her young age, her determination is already paying off, and we hope that many more will follow down the path she blazed ahead.
IG: @nadineijewere

12) Kimbra Audrey

kimbra audrey
This model-turned-photographer walked off the catwalk and out of the industry after a harrowing near-death experience from an overdose when she was only 19. Afterwards, she vowed to change her lifestyle to become more healthy and whole, and photography ended up providing the best therapy. Always shooting in film, never editing her images, Audrey tried to reclaim, shot by shot, her dignity, her joy, her clarity and her sense of self.
Of course, if art was the answer, we’d all be already saved. While the artistic process has been incredibly therapeutic for Audrey, her struggle with mental health continues. “Documenting my depression has helped me more than any doctor or medication ever has. However, my depression never completely went away, I don’t know if it ever will,” she told i-D in 2017.
But with voices like Audrey’s, we can only hope that more and more people struggling with the same issues will feel empowered to open, share, embrace vulnerability and have the courage to search for their own healing.
IG: @kimbraaudrey

13) Sarah Bahbah

sarah bahbah planet earth
Palestinian/Australian artist Sarah Bahbah’s work might be cheeky, glam and cinematic, but it’s just as emotional as Audrey’s. Bahbah’s pictures make you think of a captioned Tumblr still of a French New Wave film, or perhaps the sexiest meme you’ve ever seen. Her models are hot and bothered, in more ways than one; topics include heartbreak, child abuse, disappointment and the daily disillusionment that is human existence. It reminds us that no matter how much we like to pretend otherwise, even pretty people deal with the same existential angst.
And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Bahbah should definitely feel flattered: her signature IG-friendly aesthetic has been ripped off countless times, most famously by Selena Gomez in her “Back To You” music video. To be fair, the video also clearly references Pierrot Le Fou, but it’s true that Bahbah has carved out a niche for herself as the caption lady, she’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
IG: @sarahbahbah

14) Carlota Guerrero

carlota guerrero
In 2016, a relatively unknown photographer and art director in Barcelona got her big break in the form of a seat at the table. Yep, Guerrero is the artist behind Solange’s album cover for A Seat at the Table, as well as the videos for “Cranes in the Sky” and “Don’t Touch My Hair.”
In both works, and in the Tate Modern piece that followed, Guerrero’s signature, sculptural and pared-down style comes across very clearly. Her pictures celebrate the human body in all its shapes and forms, imbuing it with dignity and grace even as she strips off most of the clothes. And the clothes that do appear in her work are often drapey and luxurious, giving all her subjects the grace and elegance of a Greek statue.
Since her breakout work with Solange, she’s followed up with numerous high-profile editorial shoots and a collaboration with Rupi Kaur, confessional poetry sensation, for The Sun and her Flowers.
IG: @carlota_guerrero

15) Xinyi Cheng

I surrender… (2018).
Chinese painter based in the Netherlands, Xinyi is another young artist breathing life into figurative painting. But while we’re all out here celebrating the female gaze, the most remarkable thing about Cheng’s work is actually her depiction of men.
By now, a sort of canon has been built of pictures girls and women lounging around nude or in their undies, celebrating their bodies and celebrating each other. We call this canon the girl gaze and associate it with artists working in the spirit of Petra Collins. At its core, it’s a reaction against the stereotypical male gaze, objectifying and dehumanizing, which has pretty much dominated art history up until today.
But when the girl gaze gets turned on boys, some interesting things start to happen. In her paintings, Cheng applies the same tenderness that’s recently been turned on female bodies on the male. The result is stunning, poignant and unfamiliar. If you’re starting to get jaded by the oversaturation of pastel-colored panty pics on IG, rest your eyes here.
Xinyi Cheng has no IG (cry), but check out her website here, and follow her hashtag here.

16) Hetty Douglas

baby hetty douglas
If you’ve heard of London-based painter Hetty Douglas, it’s probably not for the right reasons. In 2017, she was catapulted to online notoriety with a poorly thought out IG story that looked like she was mocking manual laborers’ intelligence. She quickly apologized for what was a clearly thoughtless move, but the brutal fallout perfectly captures the double-edged sword that is the Internet. You can become a mega-star overnight, but you can also be ruined.
But luckily, her fears that her career was over haven’t exactly panned out. Online hate often dies as quickly as it ignites, and Hetty is still alive, well and painting in South London.
And her work definitely deserves lasting attention. Douglas makes medium- to large-scale abstract paintings that incorporate elements of street art, childish drawings and text. Curt but evocative words like “anger,” “idiot,” “baby,” and “okay” intermingle with almost cartoonish geometric shapes and color fields, inviting you to contemplate them as deeply, or not, as you want.
Then again, there are also phrases like “you’re a snake,” which seem pretty self-explanatory. Physically and emotionally, her work contains many layers—literally, shapes and words are often layered one over another.
In 2019, let’s let ghosts be ghosts and finally lay off Hetty once and for all, okay? I, for one, am beyond excited to see what this talented young artist has in store for us.
IG: @hettydouglas

17) Willa Nasatir

doublespeak willa nasatir
Doublespeak (2017).
This New York-based artist is definitely on the emerged side of emerging. For such a young artist, her lists of accomplishments is impressive: four solo exhibitions, including one at the Whitney Museum, and lots of buzz at 2018’s Miami Basel.
She works mainly in photography, but the spaces she creates seem to be outside of any familiar place in this world. Reminiscent of the surrealist experiments of Man Ray and Maya Deren, they also have something in common with the Cubism, Kandinsky and Dada collages.
Looking at her work inspires a sort of meditative experience, as you try to figure out what goes where. Or, you might as well be looking through a kaleidoscope, or at a page out of an I Spy book. As you might expect, she’s thoughtful and intentional with every aspect of her work, in the way we usually associate with painters and sculptors rather than photographers.
At a time when we glimpse 99.999% of all pictures for a millisecond and then keep scrolling, work like Nasatir’s can help us get back into the habit of taking our time with artwork.
For the latest work, follow her IG hashtag and check in with her gallery.

18) Tony Gum

Intombi I (2017)
Vogue called her “the coolest girl in Cape Town”—but don’t take their word for it. Even as the art world turns its attention towards Africa, much of the view of its art scene revolves around traditional and folkloric motives. Not that the past shouldn’t be celebrated, but African art has much more to offer than masks.
Tony Gum is the perfect case in point. According to the statement on her gallery’s page, her work offers: “The opportunity to witness life held constant, a reminder that in essence, each of us are works of art; we manifest in the physical, as canvas and vessel holding together our unique life’s story. Like the different stories in this exhibition series, our individual story comprises the spiritual expression of who we ‘really’ are; our ‘calling’, our ‘song’, our life’s ‘poem’ and ‘ode’.”
I mean, yes, but if you don’t get all that on your first look, don’t worry. Just look again. Sooner or later, you’ll see what her 48K IG followers are seeing, I promise.
IG: @tony_gum

19) Tabita Rezaire

tabita rezaire inner fire
From “Inner Fire” self-portrait series (2016-2017)
You think your career is slashy and modern because you hold down a day job at the gallery and DJ on the side? This girl is an artist, a “health-tech-politix” therapist, and a yoga teacher, specifically Kundalini yoga and Kemetic yoga. That’s a new age tradition based on ancient Egyptian spirituality, in case you didn’t know. She’s French, Guyanese and Danish, on top of it all.
And what kind of art does a Kemetic yoga teacher make? Rezaire’s work looks a little like something a Marxist feminist would’ve made playing around in Microsoft Paint in her fifth grade computer class. Colorful digital collages often feature the artist posing in a cosmic whirlwind of anti-capitalist phrases. Oh, and she led a healing circle for LGBTQ teens and allies at MoMA, which is pretty cool.
For more, peep her website (if you’re prone to migraines, proceed with caution), her IG hashtag or her Artsy page.

20) Tschabalala Self

tschabalala self
Princess (2017)
Last but certainly not least, no list of buzzy young artists would be complete without Ms. Self. This Harlem-based artist has been causing quite a stir on the art fair circuit lately, and for good reason. At just 28, her work already hangs in permanent museum collections around the U.S., including the Hammer Museum in L.A. and the Perez Art Museum in Miami.
Self uses textiles, printed and painted materials to piece together exuberant caricatures of black femininity. Big booties abound, but the pictures couldn’t be further from sexual; they’re light, playful, whimsical and defiant, all at once. As they should be—seeing black female bodies, which have long been reduced to one dimension when they’ve been allowed to exist at all, embody their full range of possibilities, is nothing short of a revolution.
IG: @tschabalalaself

Text by Katya Lopatko
Images via @bluemarze, @thefamelessandshameless, @monicagreatgal, @gabrielarassi, @oliviabee, @kelly_sux, @melekzertal, Coco Gordon Moore, @foxnap, @alicejoiner, @nadineijewere, @kimbraaudrey, @sarahbahbah, @carlota_guerrero, @antennaspace, @hettydouglas, @nrusso76, Christopher Moller Art, @nicolettalambertucci, @tschabalalaself

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