Jean-François Boclé Everything Must Go 2014 97,000 Blue plastic bags (HD polythlene, thickness 18/20 microns) 54 x 30 x 14 cm each. Photograph: Sophie Arni, 2015
Federico Herrero Zipacná 2014 Mixed media on canvas 270 x 290 x 5.5 cm
Right: Federico Herrero Untitled 2008 Mixed media on canvas 300 x 500 cm
Diego Mendoza Imbachi Graphis – Loggia 2014 Graphite and binder on canvas 300 x 600 cm
Jorge Mayet Entre Dos Aguas 2008 Electrical wire, paper, acrylics, fabric. 33 x 100 x 20 cm
Ephrem Solomon Untitled 2013 Woodcut and mixed media 90 x 95 cm
Alejandro Ospina, Greba Orokorra, 2013 Oil on canvas 200 x 300 cm
Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937, Oil on Canvas, 3.5 m x 7.8 m, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
(Back painting): Alexandre da Cunha Nude II 2012 Linen, hats, gold thread 200 x 135 x 15 cm
Saatchi Gallery does not do things halfway. Instead of proposing a show on new art coming from one under-represented continent, it ticks two boxes on the same go and proposes an exhibition of new art coming from two under-represented continents - under the flagship name 'Pangaea', the utopian name given to the one big land that joined supposedly once Africa and Latin America.
The first thought I had about this exhibit is how post-colonial its concept is. There are no proof that Latin America and Africa were once one continent, so why bring it this dusty idea back to the surface under the umbrella of Contemporary Art? Isn't this just another attempt for Europeans to continue what they have done for a couple of centuries now: categorise to better rule the world?
But I am willing to give in to the better side of the doubt to Saatchi's curators. Let's delve into the art: that's what is really important at the end of the day. Let's go!
First room. Jean François Boclé's Tout doit disparaître! Everything Must Go! (2014). An installation of not less than 97,000 blue plastic bags - no I did not count them should you be curious, this is what the label reads. A beautiful installation in my opinion that reminds me of my childhood spent in various parts of Africa: trash chutes were non existent at the time, and are still very rare today. In big cities, you would find one big field filled with dumps of culmutative trash, plastic bags flying through the air amongst the birds looking for used food. The smell might be horrific but the scene is quite majestic - here is a similar scenery for you to see.
This work is powerful, impactful, deals with current societal issues and is so to say, in its own space and time. Boclé, originally from Martinique and based in Paris, also deals with postcolonialism, as the exhibition pamphlet reads: "In Tout doit disparaître! Everything Must Go!, 2014, a sea of blue plastic bags forms an abyss, a quasi-memorial to lives lost at sea during the transatlantic slave trade." Contemporary industrial mediums, used to paint the scene a historical scene: I like it.
Second room, and we enter into the caliente Latin America. We have big, colorful canvases of quite naive influence, by Costa Rican artist Federico Herrero. Very decorative, joyful, and well-crafted but for me unfortunately, nothing new is brought to the table. What would be your thoughts about these following works?
So far, the curators have been pushy, but not too pushy. No long wall texts forcing us to understand the connections they are making, the exhibition raises questions and we want to assimilate what we see from these two different continents. This is until the third room comes in. We have works dealing with trees.
The large, gorgeous canvases of detailed shaped trees are by Diego Mendoza Imbachi. The sculptural delights of trees and their roots are by Jorge Mayet. This room must have been the crowd's favorite: aesthetic, alluring a sense of zen buddhism and a sense of grandeur: a relaxing sense that these trees weight heavier than our daily problems. A walk in nature basically, recreated beautifully in a white cube.
Upstairs were more traditionally sized paintings, which do possess some decorative quality to them. I enjoyed some Picasso-esque Narrative Art collage/paintings by Alejandro Ospina. But I must say I particularly enjoyed a series of Dada absurd paintings and installation by artist Alexandre da Cunha. A ironical comment on Van Gogh’s sunflower was done with a bright yellow canvas and sombrero hats glued to them.
Here's a rundown of these artists' bios. A nice touch from the show's curators: in a world of story-telling branding, individual uniqueness, and how personable a product should be: the curators have included the bios and life stories, including a head shot, of all the artists exhibited. In an era where personability is key in selling products: we want to hear the life story of our Starbucks barrista to the CEO of Apple to appreciate their human quality, which ultimately makes the product they are selling seem closer to us and of trusted caliber. The artists each have their own rectangular print, all exposed on a big wall - and truly, the piece that drew the most attention out of all the museum viewers I encountered that day. Is it legitimate to have artists bios exposed in such industrial manner, for a show of under-represented artists? Shouldn't the art speak for itself?
An interesting show, but not a tremendously insightful or aesthetically superb show for me. Some innovation in curatorship needs to be done: and I don't mean trying to merge two continents together. I want to see artists curate artists for example: I want to feel tourmented, alive, impressed and belittled by the art I'm seeing. And it's not really what I felt walking of the Saatchi Gallery this time.