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Body Language: An exhibition featuring 19 emerging international artists opens at the Saatchi Gallery
Dana Schutz, Reformers, 2004. Oil on canvas, 190.5 x 231 cm © Dana Schutz, 2004. Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London.

LONDON.- On 20th November, the Saatchi Gallery will open Body Language, an exhibition featuring 19 emerging international artists who, across a range of media, explore the physical body and present a variety of reflections on the human form.

Over the last fifty years or so, work depicting the body, such as paintings by British artists Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, was at odds with the prevailing currents of abstraction, Pop and conceptualism. Yet the figure has retained its currency, and the artists in Body Language each provide compelling evidence of the figure’s continued ability to articulate something both historically specific and curiously essential.

From the grotesque and uncanny to the poignant and satirical, the works in this exhibition examine, in arresting and innovative ways, the diverse social and political issues that can be communicated through the human body.

Jannson Stegner adopts tropes of Romanticism to portray contemporary longing. His female police officers crouch or lie on rocks and against tree stumps, with batons in their hands substituted for parasols, they trade their usual authoritative gaze for erotic innocence.

Gnawed from Iberian ham, Kasper Kovitz portrays Sabino Arana and Miguel de Unamuno, prominent figures in the history of the Basque struggle for independence from Spain. The historical sobriety is belied by the cartoonish imprecision of the faces, while the meat’s impermanence positions them as anti-monuments.

Dana Schutz’s paintings oscillate between form and chaos, and commonplace plots and horrific hypotheticals which question the process of visual storytelling. With a multitude of characters, props and activity, her narratives fail to fully cohere, or provide closure. In Reformers her worried characters seem caught-in-the act as they frantically construct a figure on the table.

Denis Tarasov photographs Russian and Ukrainian mobster tombstones, relics of the 1990s Mafia Wars, which intricately depict the deceased the way they wish to be remembered.

Makiko Kudo’s melancholic characters escape the woes of twentieth century Japan and float, hover, fall and tumble through fictive worlds reminiscent of Manga comics, and which reference Monet’s Water Lillies and Matisse’s Fauvist work. The cartoonish figure lying across a swan in Floating Island might become the artist’s avatar inhabiting a painterly world much like a character in a computer game.

Body Language demonstrates that the human body remains visual art’s best metaphor for how it feels to be alive.

Body Language features works by Tanyth Berkeley, Amy Bessone, Michael Cline, Nicole Eisenman, Chantal Joffe, Kasper Kovitz, Makiko Kudo, Nathan Mabry, Eddie Martinez, Justin Matherly, Dana Schutz, Jansson Stegner, Henry Taylor, Denis Tarasov, Alexander Tinei, Francis Upritchard, Andra Ursuta, Helen Verhoeven, Marianne Vitale.

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November 20, 2013

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Body Language: An exhibition featuring 19 emerging international artists opens at the Saatchi Gallery

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