When Africa meets Latin America: Saatchi Gallery’s “Pangaea II” – in pictures

African painters shine in the second installment of Saatchi Gallery’s extensive two-continent survey of emerging artists from Africa and Latin America.

“Pangaea II: New Art from Africa and Latin America” focuses on the still somewhat under-represented terrain of African and Latin American contemporary art. Art Radar spotlights exciting new names to watch in the African scene.

Armand Boua, 'Foule D'Enfants', 2014, tar and acrylic on board, 190 x 247 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Saatchi Gallery, London.

Armand Boua, ‘Foule D’Enfants’, 2014, tar and acrylic on board, 190 x 247 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Saatchi Gallery, London.

“Pangaea II” is the second installment of Saatchi Gallery‘s museum-scale survey of contemporary art from Africa and Latin America. The exhibition features 19 artists from the two continents and runs until September 2015.

“Pangaea”

“Pangaea” is a 20th-century word referring to a 270-million-year-old supercontinent – a prehistoric land mass containing all of today’s continents, including the then-conjoined Africa and Latin America. Saatchi Gallery reunites the former sister continents by surveying contemporary art from the two regions, exploring “notions of cultural hybridity, identity and socio-economic conflict”, according to the press release.

Ephrem Solomon, 'The Two Sorrow Faces', 2013, woodcut and mixed media, 90 x 95 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Saatchi Gallery, London.

Ephrem Solomon, ‘The Two Sorrow Faces’, 2013, woodcut and mixed media, 90 x 95 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Saatchi Gallery, London.

Alexandre da Cunha, 'Nude II', 2012, linen, hats, gold thread, 200 x 135 x 15 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Saatchi Gallery, London.

Alexandre da Cunha, ‘Nude II’, 2012, linen, hats, gold thread, 200 x 135 x 15 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Saatchi Gallery, London.

The exhibition is another of Charles Saatchi‘s characteristically sprawling surveys. 19 artists hail from Africa, home to 54 countries, and Latin America, home to 21. The press release states:

The two continents parallel each other in many ways yet the exhibition rejects any move toward a monolithic representation. The selection of narratives and perspectives are varied and unique.

A tenuous reunion?

As Culture Whisper observes, both African and Latin American art are receiving increasing attention in the contemporary art world, as evidenced by the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair as well as modern and contemporary Latin American art fair PINTA. However, as the same article notes,

[…] joining these two culturally remote continents is still tenuous, and grounded on the loose connection of colonialism.

Diego Mendoza Imbachi, 'Graphis – Loggia', 2014, graphite and binder on canvas, 300 x 600 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Saatchi Gallery, London.

Diego Mendoza Imbachi, ‘Graphis – Loggia’, 2014, graphite and binder on canvas, 300 x 600 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Saatchi Gallery, London.

Alida Cervantes, 'Horizonte En Cálma', 2011, oil on wood panel, 152.4 x 213.4 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Saatchi Gallery, London.

Alida Cervantes, ‘Horizonte En Cálma’, 2011, oil on wood panel, 152.4 x 213.4 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Saatchi Gallery, London.

Nevertheless, the mega survey works because of its scope and inclusivity. Featuring sculpture, painting, installation and photography, “Pangaea II” showcases diverse cultural influences and thriving creativity. The artists employ a hybrid of traditional and contemporary techniques and materials, displaying an exciting range of styles and motifs. According to the press release:

Witnesses to the transformation of their societies, the artists working in these two distinctive regions are increasingly based within cities that are changing at an unprecedented rate. Their work […] reflect[s] on social and political issues faced during this period of rapid urban and economic expansion.

African painters shine

In addition to outstanding works from Latin America – including, amongst others, Jean-François Boclé’s headlining installation of plastic bags and Jorge Mayet‘s exquisite photorealistic sculptures of minuscule uprooted trees – “Pangaea II” especially spotlights high quality work by African artists. Meredith Etherington-Smith at Christie’s Art Digest is of the opinion that in “Pangaea II”,

the Africans win hands down in terms of intensity and originality […]

Aboudia, 'Untitled Tete', 2014, acrylic and crayon on canvas, 200 x 125 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Saatchi Gallery, London.

Aboudia, ‘Untitled Tete’, 2014, acrylic and crayon on canvas, 200 x 125 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Saatchi Gallery, London.

Rising star Aboudia (b. 1983, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire), for example, is attracting increasing critical acclaim for his vast, spirited, complex paintings. He collages photographs, street graphics, “Basquiat-like faces and Abstract Expressionist graffiti trails” to create magnificently immersive canvases that immediately enchant the viewer. Aboudia’s 1:54 artist profile describes his work as

claustrophobic and oppressive yet brutally energetic […] straddl[ing] an uneasy line between pathos and aggression.

Dawit Abebe, 'No.2 Background 1', 2014, mixed media painting, 150 x 130 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Saatchi Gallery, London.

Dawit Abebe, ‘No.2 Background 1’, 2014, mixed media painting, 150 x 130 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Saatchi Gallery, London.

Dawit Abebe (b. 1978, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) paints sombre, earth-toned figures and silhouettes that Culture Whisper compares to Picasso’s nudes; Artlyst on the other hand describes his style as “familiar to painting post-Bacon, and Freud […] with a surreal finish”.

Boris Nzebo, 'Untitled', 2013, acrylic on canvas, 150 x 600 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Saatchi Gallery, London.

Boris Nzebo, ‘Untitled’, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 150 x 600 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Saatchi Gallery, London.

Meanwhile, Boris Nzebo (b. 1979, Port-Gentil, Gabon) employs a flamboyant palette on multi-layered canvases , weaving colourful silhouettes into kaleidoscopic architectural backgrounds. According to the exhibition press release, Nzebo’s art began as “graphic illustrations to attract customers to his brother’s barbershop”, but has now become

an interesting narrative for idealised female beauty, depicting glamorous models in an emerging materialistic society […]

Ibrahim Mahama, 'Untitled', 2013, draped jute sacks wall installation, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and Saatchi Gallery, London.

Ibrahim Mahama, ‘Untitled’, 2013, draped jute sacks wall installation, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and Saatchi Gallery, London.

Potent young talent

Two more exciting names to watch in the African scene are young artists Ibrahim Mahama (b. 1987, Tamale, Ghana), who was also featured in “Pangaea I” last spring, and Eddy Ilunga Kamuanga (b. 1991, Kinshasa, Congo). Mahama is known for his choice of canvas – the humble, roughly woven coal sack – with which he produces spectacular, majestic outdoor installations as well as mountable canvases. According to his Saatchi artist profile, Mahama’s works

are the result of his investigation of the conditions of supply and demand in African markets.

Eddy Ilunga Kamuanga, 'Voile', 2014, acrylic on canvas, 120 x 100 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Saatchi Gallery, London.

Eddy Ilunga Kamuanga, ‘Voile’, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 120 x 100 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Saatchi Gallery, London.

Meanwhile, the even younger Kamuanga creates bright and textured works that are “traditionally aesthetic yet also draw on contemporary advertising and photography, creating an African art representative of the ambitious and socially engaged youth”, according to the exhibition press release. Kamuanga recently set up an artist collective; his Saatchi artist profile says that his

persevering vision is characteristic of the vibrant intellectual community that continues to flourish in Central Africa.

Michele Chan

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