Body Language is an exhibition of work from the past ten years by 19 established artists predominantly based in America, although many of European dissent. The show takes a look at modern day treatment of the human form in art featuring painting, drawing & sculpture with mental health, nudity & communication providing the back-drop for discussion.
With a lack of variety a substance looses its meaning, its ability to evoke reaction. We saw this recently with the abundance of Klee paintings all worthy of appreciation in their own right, but viewed together in large bundles lose their appeal. The same can be said for a form that is not explored in the true sense. Instead these contemporary works are similar in their approach to figurative paintings. The works on display devalue representation of the form.
Chantal Joffe, Untitled
This lack of technical variation does lead to a sense of disappointment. Weak imagery is common with poor drawing ability & meager attempts to depict a character with casual strokes failing the gallery floor, which deserves more. It is as if the canvases align the walls playfully waiting to be told they are in the wrong venue. A variation of drawing ability would have certainly heightened the depth of the display, but no such variation occurs. In the absence of quality the exhibition becomes a feature of colour & size.
Eddie Martinez's (1977 -) eclectic mix of intriguing characters is captured on an 8.5 metre wide painting titled 'The Feast' (2010). A sense of composed chaos is conjured from his work. This is achieved through his abrasive approach to each character created using mixed mediums such as oils & spray paint roughly applied before being scraped & scratched. Japanese artist Makiko Kudo delivers large canvas paintings combining manga characters with vibrant landscapes in a clash of styles. The manga characters depicted reflect the use of fantasy as an escape from the pressures imposed by her generations rigid societal structures and failing economy. Dana Schutz (1976 -) offers a somewhat hallucinogenic embodiment of form with rapturous colour building character & landscape before cutting & slicing leaving a partial reality to be enjoyed.
Eddie Martinez - 'The Feast', 2010
Austrian, Kasper Kovitz injects a subtle humour into the display with his 2 historical Basque figures carved from ham. Each sculpture stood on opposing political sides during the Basque struggle for independence. Kovitz came up with the idea following a 3 month residency in Bilboa when he became interested in the Basque struggle to keep a cultural identity in a changing world.
Another sculptor noteworthy of mention is Romanian Andra Ursuta (1979 -) whose works 'Vandal Lust' & 'Crush' feature in Body Language. Vandal Lust' in particular is an interesting addition. A mannequin, cast from her own body, is clothed in the costume of her native Romania & seen immediately after being hurled against the wall by a catapult. This symbolises humanity being crushed by the power of the Soviet state. This emerging sculptor is fast gaining a reputation for compelling work with powerful sentiments.
The show takes the subject of body language to the grave with Marianne Vitale's make-do gravestones made from reclaimed lumber scattered across the gallery floor in typical graveyard fashion. These are accompanied on each wall by Denis Tarasov's photographs of Russian status gravestones featuring the deceased alongside their prized possessions in a curious ritual.
Overall, the latest display from the Saatchi Gallery is worth a visit. However, it is likely not to engage as deeply as previous shows have. As for the figurative form in the contemporary world, on the strength of this it is still very much alive, but with a loose, raw treatment, which opposes detail in preference of colour.
Go see & comment on your thoughts... Runs until 23rd March 2014. FREE ENTRY
Dana Schutz, Reformers, 2004 Dana Schutz, Singed Picnic, 2008
Makiko Kudo, Burning Red, 2012
Alexander Tinei, Music Teacher, 2009 Chantal Joffe, Walking Woman, 2004 Henry Taylor, Terri Phillips, 2011
Marianne Vitale Denis Tarasov
Kasper Kovitz, Carnalitos (Unamuno), 2010