Master Ashler by Ryan Fenchel
Master Ashler by Ryan Fenchel

The Reader’s Choice: Ryan Fenchel, Isak Applin, and Lilli Carré (tie)

All three of my picks for best emerging local artist make eye-candy whose appealing surface conceals a nugget of menace—perhaps channeling aspects of our corrupt, paranoid city.

Ryan Fenchel’s elegant sculptures, collages, and drawings combine contemporary iconography with the mystical hermeticist notion of God as a master of secret magical arts. For a multimedia installation at Vega Estates last fall he spent months carving an abstract sculpture out of a block of salt, a substance dense both in mass and in associations from alchemical lore. This grueling effort turned the piece into the spooky artifact of a self-mortifying performance practice, in the bold tradition of Joseph Beuys.

Isak Applin’s intimate, pastoral oils are like images by Serusier or Bonnard fractured into delicate cubist shapes. Upon closer inspection they morph from visual meditations into sinister, hallucinogenic puzzles that—like David Thorpe’s delicate paper-cut tableaux—can’t quite be put back together again.

The free-flowing, sinuous beauty of Lilli Carré’s lines and forms create an uncanny contrast with the shadowy psychological thickets through which her characters silently wander in gloomy comics, animations, and illustrations. The splatter-noir of Charles Burns seems distantly present, but Carré’s recent graphic novel The Lagoon—in which ethereal music draws townspeople to a ghostly swamp—is less a nightmare than a mysterious dream. My favorite Carré animation is What Hits the Moon, a surreal, somnambulistic reverie in which death and decomposition occasion unutterable heartbreak. —Bert Stabler

From “The Carnival” by Lilli Carré
This Time Darling by Isak Applin

&Our readers’ choice: Matthew Lew