The city of Atlanta is a center of culture and taste-making. Like all cities of the world, it has a unique relationship with the visual arts. Oil painting, mixed media work, sculpture, graphic design and street art pieces created in Atlanta are some of the strongest and most interesting work in the entire country. This is a list of the five best up-and-coming artists in Atlanta.
Derek Bruno calls Atlanta his hometown, but he’s taken risks and embraced challenges all over the world. Norway, Germany, Italy and America have all featured Bruno’s work. Yet, his industrial design-influenced sculpture pieces have only recently begun to be properly received around these parts. Bruno promises to explore both kinetic sculptures as well as a return to his furniture work this year, telling me, “I plan to keep the same limited palette and use fundamental shapes and forms to eliminate variables that could alter the visual experiments.” Looking at Bruno’s previous work, there is a logical progression from his “lenticular experiments” to his new pieces that may actually physically move. Atlantans would be lucky to witness his next steps forward in person.
Elizabeth Kleene is a painter who fits that most reductive meaning of “emerging artist” as a recent graduate. Her MFA is forthcoming from The Lamar Dodd School of Art, but her art already speaks for itself. Kleene paints lush, complex, colorful paintings that flirt with naturalism. The fun of her work is how there are just enough nouns to orientate her compositions; whether it be a sprig of leaves, a shuttlecock or just the twisting of shapes that could be seen as rope. There is also something savvy in the “contemporary-ness” of her paintings. She captures the familiar precision, clarity and luster of digital media as she paints on metallic panels.
Tyrus Lytton is represented by the Fay Gold Gallery in Atlanta and is also an MFA candidate at the The Savannah College of Art and Design. His work, “Beasts of Arcadia,” is currently on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia, and he described it to me as exploring, “familial identity utilizing the labors of Heracles as a lens.” There is an obvious rigor to Lytton’s approach to creation and production, but besides the iconography underpinnings, there are compelling formal elements at play. Seeing the visual pun, disembodied body parts blend into abstract interior panels to challenge the viewer. His clever transitions and breaking of planes make Lytton an artist to be watched.
Related: Most Iconic Works Of Art In Atlanta
Graphic designer Jessica Larkin acquired her BFA at Kennesaw State University and works in Atlanta. While her client work continues to develop her professional voice, her personal work reveals significant potential. Like many designers, she continues to acquire new skills and styles to accompany her first love: illustration.
Brandon McMillan, of the Pryor Fine Art Gallery, is a mixed media artist poised for a breakthrough. His naturalistic animal subjects are clearly informed by his authentic regional experience. While McMillan’s upbringing in South Georgia inspires his artwork, his affection for Clyfford Still, Albrecht Durer and Nathan Oliveira is also recognizable in his work.
Benjamin Britton is a newly acquired talent for The Marcia Wood Gallery in Atlanta by way of Los Angeles. Like Bruno, Britton’s work arrives fully realized and ready for his new audience. Readers will also notice some cosmetic similarities to Kleene’s work, as he generates gorgeously decorated abstract landscapes. In his words, Britton told me, “I’m creating a convoluted but navigable space where a viewer can enter, move around and make discoveries. I’m interested in challenging spaces, maybe even chaotic ones, but their overall effect tends toward the romantic, celebratory and almost always contains something of the natural world.”
Related: Best Murals In Atlanta
With a BFA in Digital Media, Sean Mills has worked for design firms with clients across the United States. He has worked as an illustrator and visual designer, and has shown paintings in juried exhibitions. He currently works as a studio artist and writer in Atlanta, Georgia. His work can be found at Examiner.com.