Preview :: Wangechi Mutu

May 31st 2013

Photo by Kathryn Parker Almanas – Wangechi Mutu

1. Take a step into a dimly lit room.

2. Stop to let the scene before you sink in.

3. Breathe in the overwhelming scent of red wine infused with rotting wood.

4. See suspended glass bottles hanging from the ceiling as they slowly release droplets of wine onto a broad dining table.

5. Watch hanging bulbs cast light and shadow across the walls.

6. Turn to look at pelts of fur coat layered in the shape of an oval.

7. Cast your eyes to the other side of the room where holes like shattered bullet holes piece the wall.

8. Ponder on the evidence laid out in front of you.

Is this a dinner party gone wrong? Perhaps you woke up with a hangover having no recollection of the previous night? No, this is the intriguing instillation work of Kenyan-born, Brooklyn-based artist, Wangechi Mutu.

The work, Exhuming Gluttony: Another Requiem mixes beauty with the disturbing.

“On one hand, you will be drawn to the bizarre arrangements, like a bowerbird is to colourful and shiny objects. On the other hand, you will feel a strange sensation, like some horrible event is brewing in a suspenseful film.”

To be drawn into the works or not to be drawn into the works? That is the question.

I say, take a leap of faith.

The multi-talented artist creates pieces that are extremely enthralling to look at. Mutu deserves a tick in the box for “Looks fascinating.” The work captivates with the strange set ups and intricate details scattered across a collection of collages, instillations, videos and paintings.

When you walk around the gallery, the plaques do not explain the meaning behind each artwork. You are left to put your own thinking cap to hard work. Who knows what concoctions you will develop in that brain of yours!

Is this just some other artist who thought it would be funny to confound the viewers by placing random objects together? I ask one of the gallery assistants on the meaning behind the work and she explains.

Wait for it… A light bulb flickers and an “ooooh” emits from my mouth. Yep, Wangechi Mutu gets the golden star for both presentation and concept.

“Metha” – image courtesy of the MCA

She paints a confronting image of Rwandan genocide in her works with wine falling like droplets of blood. Themes of gender, race, war, colonisation and identity in Africa, are all explored in the Wangechi Mutu exhibition.

There is an overwhelming sense of emotion oozing from the works. The gallery assistant told me a visitor had such an emotional reaction to the work, she started to shed tears.

In another instillation work, Metha (meaning “table”), the artist adds suspended bottles of milk in between blood red bottles. The milk is symbolic of life while the red wine is symbolic of death.

Mutu takes you to a fantastical space where mountains made of duct tape cover the floor and a sagging moon created with fur pelts and costume jewellery hang on the wall. Tiny collaged pigs with wings sweep around towards the moon. Perhaps the Moon Will Save Us is a look into greediness and the ideal of hope.

“Perhaps the Moon Will Save Us” – Photo courtesy MCA

Even if you are not the type of person to venture into art galleries, I suggest you trod on down to the Museum of Contemporary Art to see this one. It’s definitely a unique viewing experience.

WHAT :: Wangechi Mutu
WHERE  :: Museum of Contemporary Art – 140 George St, The Rocks
WHEN :: 23rd May – 14th August

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