Thursday, June 26, 2014

Contemporary Art: Wangechi Mutu” A Fantastic Journey at M.O.C.A. in North Miami

This past week I had the pleasure of driving down to Miami for a day trip. I decided I would go to the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami. My experience with Contemporary art is limited. When I would take my son’s to the Art Museum at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh the last place they wanted to go to was the Contemporary Art Section.  I would laugh when I tried to explain what the artist was presenting just after going through the Renaissance Art section of the museum. I did not know who or what I would encounter there, I just found it on Google as a day trip activity so I went with no expectations. I was flabbergasted by the most marvelous experience. The experience was the exhibit of “Wangechi Mutu” A Fantastic Journey.  

Before I left for Miami I asked myself, “What is Contemporary Art?” Contemporary Art according to Art History just means "art that has been and continues to be created during our lifetimes," In other words, contemporary to us. Now, of course, if you are my age and reading this, you can expect a certain amount of overlapping between "Contemporary" and "Modern" art in your lifetime. A good rule of thumb is:
  • Modern Art: Art from the Impressionists (say, around 1880) up until the 1960s or '70s.
  • Contemporary Art: Art from the 1960s or '70s up until this very minute.

Definition from "The J. Paul Getty Museum" Educator classroom curriculum.
Strictly speaking, the term "contemporary art" refers to art made and produced by artists living today. Today's artists work in and respond to a global environment that is culturally diverse, technologically advancing, and multifaceted. Working in a wide range of mediums, contemporary artists often reflect and comment on modern-day society. When engaging with contemporary art, viewers are challenged to set aside questions such as, "Is a work of art good?" or "Is the work aesthetically pleasing?" Instead, viewers consider whether art is "challenging" or "interesting." Contemporary artists may question traditional ideas of how art is defined, what constitutes art, and how art is made, while creating a dialogue with—and in some cases rejecting—the styles and movements that came before them
 I found that the joy of Contemporary Art for me, is that it does not need someone to explain it to me. The art is what it is and that is enough. The message is evident in the work itself, just look without prejudice or preconceived ideologies. The challenge is
coming to grips with the mind of the artist at the time they create their work and accepting it. I found this to be true with the work of Wangechi Mutu at M.O.C.A  of North Miami. It was a wonderful experience.

I just want to take a moment to thank the great staff at the M.O.C.A.of North Miami for their assistance. They were extremely knowledgeable about the exhibit. I also want to express genuine appreciation to the young gentleman (whose name I can not remember and therefore I am kicking myself at this time) who assisted and walked with me through the entire exhibit. We talked and discussed every piece of art. I shared my views and he shared those of people who came before me. He never tried to sway me to a right or wrong interpretation which allowed me to delve deeper into the work itself and the painstaking time it took to create each piece of art.

A Brief Bio of Wangechi Mutu (Paraphrased or in some parts quoted verbatim from the M.O.C.A. of North Miami Website)

She is Kenya-born, New York-based artist whose multi-faceted work captures 21st century global sensibility. Since earning her M.F.A. from Yale University in 2000, Wangechi Mutu has come to be regarded as one of the most inventive and critically-engaged artists of her generation.  Combining materials and imagery from sources as diverse as African traditions, international politics, the high fashion industry and science fiction, Mutu creates works that depict fantastical worlds as places for profound exploration of race, gender and power. Her work is a critical investigation of issues ranging from colonialism to displacement, ritual, perceptions of Africa and the female form.

 “Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey” exhibition includes more than 50 works from the mid-1990s to the present, including a new site-specific mural and a black box theater projection of her newest video. “Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey,” part of MOCA’s Knight Exhibition Series ends it run on July 6, 2014.

 Alex Gartenfeld, MOCA Interim Director and Chief Curator, states that, “Placing centrality on the female form, Wangechi Mutu’s provocative body of work imagines hybrid creatures and surreal landscapes that comment on commercialism, globalization and cultural norms. “We are thrilled to be presenting the first solo museum exhibition dedicated to her work.”

“Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey” incorporates all aspects of Mutu’s prolific practice which includes collage, drawing, installation, sculpture, performance and video. A new site-specific mixed media mural created for the MOCA presentation will welcome visitors into exhibition galleries, which will be transformed into a forest-like environment populated by the installation of large-scale felt trees.

Within this setting, Mutu’s iconic collages will be prominently featured, including new

commissions and rare early works. These richly embellished pieces primarily depict female figures set in otherworldly landscapes. Pieced together with human, animal, machine and monstrous parts, Mutu’s heroines appear as seductive and beautiful as they are critical and disturbing. They rule over other worldly landscapes that appear both lushly tropical and post-apocalyptic. In Family Tree, 2012, Mutu’s installation of 13 related collages, the artist constructs a female-dominated creation mythology to explain the origin of the universe.  

Approximately 30 of the artist’s sketchbook drawings, dating from 1995 to the present, will also be on view, revealing fascinating insight into her creative process. This was one of my favorite sections of the exhibit because it showed how she came up with her ideas from ink and paste to her final product.

MOCA’s Pavilion Gallery was transformed into a black box theater for the projection of the artist’s first-ever animated video, The End of eating Everything, 2013, in which Mutu brings her elaborate collages to life in a magical narrative set in the sky. Mutu collaborated with musical artist Santigold to create the video’s central character, a flying cyborgian mothership whose voracious consumption leads to its implosion. Two other videos are featured in the exhibition: Eat Cake, 2012, which addresses ritual and overindulgence and Amazing Grace, 2005, a meditation on the slave trade and displaced populations.

“Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey” is curated and organized by Trevor Schoonmaker, the Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Curator of Contemporary Art at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC.

“Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey” was made possible in part by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Duke University’s Council for the Arts, and the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.  MOCA’s showing of the exhibition is made possible by an endowment to the museum established by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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