Undocumented immigrants often describe feeling invisible in their new countries, as the significant parts of their day-to-day existence must be kept below the radar of those who can threaten their livelihoods. Colombian artist Rafael Gomezbarros touches upon this theme in his installation series “Casa Tomada,” in which giant sculptures of ants take over large, public spaces, confronting viewers with what they often overlook. “Casa Tomada” has previously appeared on the Colombian capitol building in Bogota and several art fairs in South America and the Caribbean. Its latest iteration is at Saatchi Gallery in London for their current exhibition, “Pangea: New Art from Africa and Latin America.”
With their thick bodies built from two conjoined casts of human skulls, the ants symbolize the migrants from Gomezbarros’s native country. Gomezbarros envisioned the piece as a reaction to the forced displacement many Colombians have faced as a result of the ongoing violence in their homeland. He strategically installs “Casa Tomada” in cities that are popular points of arrival and departure for immigrants — Havana, Bogota, London. Though it appears whimsical at first, the installation is a chilling reminder of the presence of those who have disappeared in times of political unrest.
“Casa Tomada” is on view at Saatchi Gallery in London as part of “Pangea: New Art from Africa and Latin America” through November 2. Take a look at some of Gomezbarros’s current and past works below.