Waiting for Omar Gatlato: Contemporary Art from Algeria and Its Diaspora

Waiting for Omar Gatlato: Contemporary Art from Algeria and Its Diaspora

Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University

Mourad Krinah, The Sunday Waltz 3–Tribute to Paolo Uccello (detail), 2019. Wallpaper installation. Courtesy of the artist.

January 29, 2020
Waiting for Omar Gatlato: Contemporary Art from Algeria and Its Diaspora
October 26, 2019–March 15, 2020
Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University
615 W 129th St
New York, NY 10027
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Waiting for Omar Gatlato: Contemporary Art from Algeria and Its Diaspora is on view at Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery through March 15, 2020. The exhibition, an expansive examination of Algerian decolonial visual aesthetics, is curated by Natasha Marie Llorens, a Ph.D. candidate in Columbia’s Department of Art History and Archaeology. 

The exhibition 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.

Rigorously critical in its engagement with colonialism’s formal legacies, the Waiting for Omar Gatlato exhibition advances diverse representations of everyday life in Algeria and in its diaspora with film, paintings, photography, and sculpture 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. 

Algeria’s eight-year struggle for independence from France (1954–62) was a critical model for revolutionary causes across the African continent, including the African National Congress’s fight against apartheid in South Africa. Yet over the last fifty years, this important political legacy has hardened into a single-party system founded on the war’s mythologization. Many of Algeria’s artists reject this national mythology in favor of the everyday experience of public and private space, both in their work and, for some, since the popular uprising against the single-party government began in February 2019, with their bodies in the street.

The exhibition is accompanied by a series of lectures and film screenings.  

February 1
2pm: “Mohamed Kouaci: Photographic Memory of Early Algeria”: Lecture by Adel Ben Bella, independent scholar and filmmaker
3pm: La Zerda ou les chants de l’oubli (Zerda or the Songs of Forgetting): Film screening (English and German subtitles), Dir. Assia Djebar, 1982, 60 minutes. Introduced by Asma Abbas, Associate Professor of Politics and Philosophy, Bard College at Simon’s Rock

February 8
2pm: “Around 1962, from Algeria to the World”: Lecture by Todd Shepard, Arthur O. Lovejoy Professor, Department of History, Johns Hopkins University 

February 15
2pm: “Spatial Imaginaries in Contemporary Algerian Literature”: Lecture by Madeleine Dobie, Department Chair, Department of French, Columbia University

The 264-page Waiting for Omar Gatlato catalog, 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, a graphic essay by Nawel Louerrad and illustrated entries on the works in the exhibition. The catalog is available for purchase at the Wallach Art Gallery.

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.

Waiting for Omar Gatlato: 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.

For more information and to register for public programs visit wallach.columbia.edu

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Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University
January 29, 2020

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