Saatchi's American collection
Francesca Gavin, BBC Collective
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.
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