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Waiting for Omar Gatlato at Wallach Art Gallery

© Mourad Krinah, "The Sunday Waltz 3 — Tribute to Paolo Uccello" (detail), 2011.

FACE and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy are pleased to announce the Wallach Art Gallery's new exhibition Waiting for Omar Gatlato from October 26th, 2019.

Curated by Natasha Marie Llorens, Waiting for Omar Gatlato is a survey of contemporary art by Algerian artists and by those in its diaspora. Following the curators’ previous Etant donnés curatorial fellowship in France and Algeria, Waiting for Omar Gatlato is conceived as a broad survey of both established Algerian artists and those from the generation now coming of age in a post-civil war Algeria and in its diaspora. Waiting for Omar Gatlato is –first- the title of a book published in 1979 by the Algerian lawyer, feminist, and film critic Wassyla Tamzali. Waiting for Omar Gatlato responds directly to the specificity of Algeria’s socio-historical context by bringing visibility to artists living and working in France and Algeria. The project’s methodology works against the country’s conflation with its more affluent neighbors, namely Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the Gulf, and against its marginalization by the international art world more broadly. The exhibition also responds to an aporia with regard to Algeria and its French diaspora specific to New York’s art world and academic departmental categories, which has a tendency to see North Africa together with the Middle East.

The project expressly refuses thematic axes, such as “memory” or “exile”, “the violence of the civil war”, in favor of the open-ended framework Algerian film critic and lawyer Wassyla Tamzali sets out in her eponymous volume, published in Algiers in 1979. In her book, Tamzali argues that Merzak Allouache’s 1976 feature film Omar Gatlato represents a turn toward the individual in Algerian society, their desires and the contradictions they struggle with. This exhibition proposes that an analogous openness to everyday life is taking place in today’s art scenes and, indeed, even in its streets.

Waiting for Omar Gatlato is presented with full acknowledgment of this exceptionalism and the attendant impossibility—both political and aesthetic—of representing an artistic context that is at odds with its own national mythology. The exhibition nevertheless takes a claim for national specificity seriously, not as a way to essentialize artists from Algeria or its diaspora, but as an important structuring condition of their cultural production both at home and abroad.

Participating Artists:

Louisa Babari, Fayçal Baghriche, Bardi, Mouna Bennamani, Adel Bentounsi, Zoulikha Bouabdellah, Halida Boughriet, Fatima Chafaa, EL Meya, Hakima El Djoudi, Karim Ghelloussi, Mounir Gouri, Mourad Krinah, Nawel Louerrad, Amina Menia, Sonia Merabet, Yazid Oulab, Lydia Ourahmane, Sadek Rahim, Dania Reymond, Sara Sadik, Fethi Sahraoui, Massinissa Selmani, Fella Tamzali Tahari, Djamel Tatah, and Sofiane Zouggar

With the support of Etant Donnés Contemporary Art, a program developed by FACE Foundation and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States.