October 25, 2019


Wallach Art Gallery

6:00 am – 8:00 am

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Natasha Marie Llorens, ICLS graduate student at the Department of Art History and Archaeology has curated the exhibit:

 Waiting for Omar Galto: Contemporary Art from Algeria and Its Diaspora. 

Opening Reception Will be on October 25 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm

Exhibition Will Be on View at the Wallach October 26, 2019 – March 15, 2020

Waiting for Omar Gatlato: A Survey of Contemporary Art from Algeria and Its Diaspora borrows its title from a 1979 publication on early Algerian film, edited by Wassyla Tamzali, which references Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot and Merzak Allouache’s 1976 cult classic film Omar Gatlato. The exhibition title combines two important conceptual clues for how contemporary Algerian visual artists and filmmakers approach and engage art as the decolonization process evolves. Both source works are portraits of anti-heroes trying to make sense of their day-to-day lives.

Waiting for Omar Gatlato advances diverse representations of everyday life in Algeria and its diaspora through film, paintings, photography and sculpture. There are works by 25 artists, including Louisa Babari and Célio Paillard, Fayçal Baghriche, Bardi, Mouna Bennamani, Adel Bentounsi, Zoulikha Bouabdellah, Halida Boughriet, Fatima Chafaa, EL Meya, Hakima El Djoudi, Karim Ghelloussi, Mounir Gouri, Mourad Krinah, Amina Menia, Sonia Merabet, Yazid Oulab, Lydia Ourahmane, Sadek Rahim, Dania Reymond, Sara Sadik, Fethi Sahraoui and La Chambre Claire, Massinissa Selmani, Fella Tamzali Tahari, Djamel Tatah and Sofiane Zouggar.

Challenging historical contradictions and representations is a consistent theme of the artworks in the exhibition. Fethi Sahraoui’s 2019 photography book Triangle of Views and its “Escaping the Heatwave” essay contain images of children ingeniuously finding ways to cool themselves off in abandoned water towers, irrigation channels and streams of agricultural runoff. Fatima Chafaa’s 2019 photographic installation My Father’s Painting: Fatma d’Arc or Jeanne N’soumer addresses how the representation of strong femininity has been circulated and transformed over centuries as a cultural practice. Dania Reymond highlights the Algiers botanical garden, Jardin d’Essai du Hamma, as a projection of the colonial imagination onto the existing landscape and as a space for fantasy in her 2016 film Jardin d’Essai.

Waiting for Omar Gatlato responds to the visual and imaginative obscurity that blankets Algeria,” said the curator Natasha Marie Llorens. “The reasons for Algeria’s lack of artistic representation at the international level are complex: 130 years of settler colonialism by the French engendered both a robust literary and artistic legacy in France’s own image. As a result of an unrelenting yet ambivalent struggle for self-determination at every level of the sociocultural sphere, no digestible, unified narrative has emerged for the West to understand Algeria.”

Added Betti-Sue Hertz, the Wallach Gallery’s new director and chief curator, “I am excited about the presentation of Waiting for Omar at the Wallach, as we continue along the vein of igniting conversations around representation, within historical legacies and contemporary art. With this exhibition, Columbia provides an in-depth view of individual expressions across an evolving Algerian cultural landscape.” After it closes at the Wallach, Waiting for Omar Gatlato will be expanded to include works from the collection of the National Centre for Plastic Arts of France, as well as new commissions by several emerging artists. The exhibition will be presented at La Friche de la Belle de Mai in Marseille in June 2020, at the invitation of Triangle France / Astérides in conjunction with Manifesta 2020.

The 264-page Waiting for Omar Gatlato catalog, designed by Eider Corral and co-published by Sternberg Press, includes the first English translations of texts by key theorists of Algerian contemporary art on the evolving relationship between art and politics, as well as poetry by Samira Negrouche and a graphic essay by Nawel Louerrad. The catalog will be available for purchase at the Wallach Art Gallery and from its distributor, MIT Press.

Waiting for Omar Gatlato: A Survey of Contemporary Art from Algeria and Its Diaspora has been developed through the generous support of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional support has been provided by Etant Donnés Contemporary Art, a program developed by FACE Foundation and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States, with lead funding from the French Ministry of Culture and Institut Français-Paris, the Florence Gould Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Chanel USA, the ADAGP and the CPGA. Support for artists’ travel provided by the Embassy of the United States in Algiers.

 The Heyman Center for the Humanities, Room B-101
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