The title of the latest show at the Saatchi Gallery, Pangaea, suggests an artistic reunification of this ancient continent. It is however a strange and poorly considered title since in reality one would also have to include all of USA, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Antarctic for a true reunified ‘picture’.
We have to assume that it is therefore a lazy attempt to imply a connection between the art from Africa and Latin America that is presented here. Unfortunately such geographical pigeon-holing is dangerously condescending as well as being plain wrong.
At worst, the title implies an ethnic ‘otherness’ and presumes an exhibition exposing things like cultural stereotyping, and past colonialism. At best it suggests that ‘African art’ for example is not worthy to be presented alongside other ‘Art’ – would one expect to see ‘French Art’ or ‘Scottish Art’ presented independently?
Surely in the international, multi-cultural, internet-connected world, ideas are dispersed so quickly that this type of show is redundant? A case in point is Oscar Murillo, one of the artists featured, who left his native Columbia as a child, but now London resident and surely out of place here.
There is however some good art, and the exhibition is worth a visit to see the half a dozen worthwhile artists within the show. One is greeted by Rafael Gómezbarros’ roomful of giant ants. With bodies of recast skulls they clamber the walls and represent desperate asylum- seekers.
Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou invokes Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon with his mask-wearing photographic nudes whilst Ibrahim Mahama creates an oppressive, murky room from old coal sacks, re-cycled and re-used before being gathered for display here to expose the exploitative mechanisms of world trade.
Oscar Murillo’s collages of recycled products combine high and low brow, oil paint and dirt. The multilayered paintings of Boris Nzebo invoke the likes of Patrick Caulfield but are original enough to be worth mentioning.
Dillon Marsh’s neat photographic works, from his Assimilation series, show landscapes where human intervention is being reversed by natural forces.
So far so (quite) good but by gallery 11, the exhibition runs out of artists, and we then have four mediocre galleries of ‘Abstract America Today’. Oh well.
Pangea: New Art from Africa & Latin America is at the Saatchi Gallery until 2 November 2014
Images by CELLOPHANELAND*