Contemporary Color: 7 Artists ≤ 27

Seven artists, designers and all around surface sovereigns from all around the world (or at least the Western Hemisphere….) and their take on color:

Cody Tumblin, Chicago


Licking Riddle, 2014. Dye and marker on cotton. Image courtesy of artist.

“In a lot of ways, I think of art as a system of information. So color, for me, is how the information is delivered. Is the dog red or is it blue? When it barks, is the sound black or white? It’s not really about the image for me, but how the image is conveyed.”

When we spoke over the phone, the first question I asked Cody was why not yellow and green? From there we moved into his continuing interest in publication design and film, as well as the appeal of coming into textiles from a background in graphic design and printmaking.  With quick nods to the ornament, and subtle but immediately recognizable allusions towards “adolescence” “fake angst” and relative ease (who among us has not practiced ballpoint pen pentagrams atop our AP English King Lear handouts?), not to mention a penchant for generally ubiquitous/deceptively harmless symbols (the teardrop’s wild ride from Renaissance paintings to gang tattoos, for instance), Cody’s dyed works never sit too comfortably in any one category but lean, stand upright, and pace back and forth among several. Cody lives and works in Chicago with his wife and fellow artist, Kayl Parker.


Licking Riddle (Side View), 2014. Dye and marker on cotton. Image courtesy of artist.


Meriem Benanni, New York

“I mostly learn from jumping from one medium to the other. Discoveries I make through drawing help me tighten my approach of video and animation. Working with video and a digital timeline confronts me with the relevance of injecting a sense of chronology and internet consciousness into my drawings. I am genuinely interested in building and strengthening a voice that emerges from the endless crushing of two waves into each other. On one side, an obsessive exploration of formal, digital and technological toolsets. On the other side, humor as an emotional sex friend and a cultural thermometer.”

Working through a massively diverse set of media, from drawing, to animation, to sculpture to video, Meriem cites humor as an important influence on  her work.  Originally from Morocco, Meriem spent four years studying animation in France before coming to New York to study at The Cooper Union.  When we spoke about her work, primarily her drawings, she talked about the transition to graphite as an act of discipline, realizing earlier that color had became a way of “fixing” drawings that she became unsatisfied with. Currently working on developing a clothing line with her sister who currently lives in Paris, Meriem spoke about connecting New York and Paris style with that of the traditional  crafts of Morocco. Besides the clothing line, Meriem is also working on a video project in the realm of “faux documentary,” as well as the fifth installment of her ongoing animation series “Silly Stories”.

Meriem Bennani at Signal Gallery.


Tongyu “Toni” Zhao, Chicago

Tongyu Zhao, 2014. Piece from Not Really Yet, a series of  ”plastic doodles and collages.”

“I guess every kind of color, or everything with color, or everything in general, changes with time. So the color can never be the same color. I think maybe the names that we give to these colors are just tags for our poor memories. So that we can remember a color forever, believing that they don’t ever change, till we lost the memory of such color, and left with only names, letters, descriptions, statements.”

A recent transplant from Beijing, performance artist, sculptor, “painter,” and former studio-mate, Tongyu “Toni” is serious about “stuff.” In one of her video documentations, Toni’s inflatable sculptures dance out of open Chicago vents while passersby help her hold up its backdrop. In another entitled, “The Party Animal,” she is followed by a class of disposable camera toting performers while a green liquid empties into Lake Michigan. In another,  Toni  drops a lump of clay the same weight as her brain  repeatedly on a gallery floor. Using melted plastics as pigment, Toni creates fabrics and collages with plastic bags, straws, streamers, etc. Mixing memory, music, mechanics, meta-narratives and brand new ways of mess making, Toni’s tact and skill for validating fast actions with slow poetics makes her an artist of her own.

Tongyu Zhao. Still from Party Animal No Sex, 2014.


Milleneufcentquatrevignt Quatre, Lyon

Milleneufcentquatrevingtquatre, BOUGIES BAMBOUS.  Silk scarf from their “Neo Geo” collection.

Milleneufcentquatrevingtquatre, BOUGIES BAMBOUS. Silk scarf from their “Neo Geo” collection.

A duo made of Amélie Charroin and Marie Colin-Madan, Milleneufcentquatrevigntquatre (french for nineteen-eighty-four, their birth year) is a brand out of France specializing in scarves. Made from images drawn and printed by both of them, MNCQVQ  ”is the meeting of our 2 aesthetics, the place where is happening the balance between us.”

Milleneufcentquatrevingtquatre, CYPRÈS. Silk scarf from their collection “NEO GEO.”


Clay Hickson, Chicago


Rally, a 22-page zine of four-color prints by Annu Kilpeläinen. Printed by Tan n’ Loose Press, 2014.

Color is a constant struggle for  me. I have no natural intuition about the rules or relationships between colors and every choice I make is labored over, debated, and often times regretted. Unfortunately, I believe color is the key to conveying the messages I want to get across in my work. So I am a slave to color.”

Clay Hickson is a freelance illustrator living in Chicago, IL. He is also the owner/operator of Tan & Loose Press; a small publishing venture focusing on limited edition artist prints and zines.

Clay Hickson, pages from Work It, an in-depth study of women’s footwear, 2014.


Yani Aviles, Chicago


Yani Aviles, Pleasure Principle Rising. Wood, siding, patterned textile, faux fur, rope, acrylic, spray paint, concrete, bed sheets, immersion dye on cotton and direct dye on cotton, 2014.


Yani Aviles, Tilt. Wood, vinyl, patterned textiles, foam, thread, staples, spray paint, acrylic, chalk pastel and pylon, 2014.

“I see color as object and object as symbol. Growing up in Brooklyn in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I was exposed to color in a very appropriated, modern, bauhausian way. I remember the brand Cross Colours, and the color blocking outfits TLC used to sport. The knock-off Memphis Design textiles and furniture that lived in the houses of my friends, or the floating shapes and patterns that would enter in on the opening theme of Saved by the Bell. The colors had presence. They were saturated and singular, they were in essence their own entity. For me color is coded with meaning, but also exists as sensation; an entry point for expressing ideas, concepts and feelings we have no words for yet. “

Based in Chicago out of New York, Yani is a sculptor, painter, and all around color cool-kid. Building with things that have already been built and painting them bright pink, Yani’s work plays with aesthetics and even more importantly busts that play wide open. Citing the visual culture of the late eighties/early nineties NYC as her main inspiration, the artist has asked that I also post a link to this video.

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Yani Aviles, Tender Miscommunication. Wood, concrete, clay, spray paint, enamel, lamp shade, toilet seat cover and telephone cord, 2014.

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