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usa today
usa today
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Saatchi’s American collection.

Charles Saatchi may be homeless – without a gallery that is – but that hasn’t stopped him putting together one of the most vibrant exhibitions of contemporary art that has graced British shores for a long time.

USA Today is a giant survey show that has barged its way into the Royal Academy’s Burlington Gardens space under the wing of Norman Rosenthal. The title sounds like it should be a show looking at the breadth of American art, and it is. Just not all the artists are American; many are expats based in the States. None of this really matters though. What counts is how this work is often openly violent, visceral and political.

The most in your face is Dash Snow’s F**k The Police. Condemned in The Times (which is arguably reason alone to praise it), this installation is a wall of white-framed newspaper clippings with headlines about police corruption. All are covered in the artists own semen. Snow takes things literally, but its sensationalism works.

More abstractly dark are Banks Violette’s installations like 2004’s Hate Them, a drum kit with caveman-style stalagmite drums, black gleaming platforms and a web of steel drum stands. Their more recent collaboration with metal band Sunn O))) was a frosted white space made of cast salt, created for a performance that no one could see. These pieces reference gothic death imagery and teen angst, but in a disturbingly slick way where human beings are always absent.

The real queen of the show, however, is Wangechi Mutu and in particular her series of collages made from packing tape, glitter, fur, ink, magazine pages and found medical illustrations of the uterus. These pieces transform the internal organs of women’s bodies into freakish faces with titles like Uterine Catarrh.

There are other good pieces: Terence Koh, Erick Swenson and Jon Pylypchuk are all worth a mention. And, as ever with Saatchi shows, there’s a dud room or two with rather dull artists taking up valuable space. However, if you want a dose of contemporary art that’s an animated contrast to the Turner Prize, then come here.

Francesca Gavin 12 October 06
USA Today is at the Royal Academy, London, until 04 November 06.
Read members' comments related to this feature.
The boy has done it again Martha post 4
comment by artistpainter    Dec 7, 2006
Saatchi salvages + rummages. He works as a custodian and collects but is no master or genius. He made his money and plays with it. Nothing great about that, just another rich guy throwing money around. Is this what makes Britain so grateful? What about art? Saatchi doesn't define art with purchases and displays.
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The boy has done it again Martha post 3
comment by Pereira da Silva    Nov 27, 2006
It's a great artwork, congratulations!!
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The boy has done it again Martha post 2
comment by artistpainter    Nov 16, 2006
Oh, I don't believe he is ahead of his time at all. I would say he is rather stuck in the previous century trying to flex the muscles developed in the old school of thought about art. Staging scenes with lack-luster ideas such as flagrant objects and sloppy academic approach to painting doesn't really speak of anything past the 1960's. When are those old hippies going to give in and admit they are old now, past their prime, and heading towards senility? They may hold teaching positions at universities and own galleries but their collective voice is throaty from years of smoking. Saatchi just hangs on because of his investments from his lifetime, not because he is a visionary. Those old birds still clutch the wires though, don't they? Watching every move like a hawk and scheming to hold the line on what is considered great contemporary art. Yawn.
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The boy has done it again Martha post 1
comment by onecooldad    Nov 11, 2006
What can you say, provocative, sureal,a visionary: ahead of his time. This new collection shows why he has a world renown art gallery and I work in an office. He is a credit to Britain.
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