My first thought, after traversing the two tiny rooms dedicated to this exhibition (plus small annexe for a single video work) was, ‘Is that it?’ The Saatchi Gallery is a massive space. Most of it still displays the Gaiety is The Most Outstanding Feature of The Soviet Union show that I reviewed months ago. The huge Russian show is crushingly downbeat, even if the intensity of suffering is illuminating at times. The tiny British show ambles about, tentative, uncertain and insecure.
We can believe in nothing, apparently. Rafal Zawistowski debunks religion. Her Jesus Christ and assorted Popes in melted wax and pigment are ugly, faceless icons, their halos either weak or glowing unhealthy, more radio-active than holy.
Family is out of the window. Wendy Mayer’s half-size stuffed figures in what should be comforting familial tableaux are unnerving, stuck with pins and cross-stitched at their joints as if inside out.
Don’t even think about politics. Dominic From Luton replays ‘political history as panto,’ in his Dominic From Luton As Margaret Thatcher series (2011), seeing him dressed as Maggie in a sordid environs.
Nature? Whether human or animal, it’s red in tooth and claw. Greta Alfaro’s video In Ictu Oculi (In the Blink of an Eye, 2009) stages a banquet table descended on and picked clean by a swarm of vultures. This is no Last Supper, which ends in a blessing. This is a celebration of greed that doesn’t leave a scrap of comfort behind. Did I say vultures or bankers?
Neither will technology save us. James Capper’s Ripper Teeth and Nipper (2011-2012) re-imagine industrial machinery as nightmare. The huge machine parts take on the organic but threatening forms of crabs pincers or steel teeth.
I don’t know what to make of the touch of Southern Gothic introduced by Tereza Zelenkova’s two photos, Cometes and Crocodiles (2012). Both seem to come out of a horror movie set in Louisiana via Tokyo. Other than adding to the general sense of unease, these photos are no more British than the artist’s name.
So nothing here to compare to the love-it-or-hate-it Sensation exhibition, that YBA explosion of art world lore, either in size or in scope. It’s all just a bit, meh. Perhaps the age of the contributors is relevant. With half in their twenties and the other half in their thirties, they are products of the post-Boom era. Our world is smaller and more insecure. Still, it’s all very well for these artists to dismantle whatever concepts and institutions they fancy. How about creating something instead?
New Order: British Art Today runs at the Saatchi Gallery until 29th September 2013
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