Wangechi Mutu is wearing some really great silver reflective kicks. It’s a little dark in the level one galleries at the Museum of Contemporary Art, but her shoes have a kind of moon-like glow about them. As she navigates what is the most comprehensive presentation of her work to date, the New York-based, Kenyan-born artist invites us into an alien environment, reminiscent of a lunar landscape, at once beautiful and unnerving.
Mutu is considered to be one of the world’s leading African contemporary artists. Her work spans collage, drawing, sculpture, installation and video, and her exhibition currently showing at the MCA surveys work from the past 10 years of her career, fusing together some of her most haunting and remarkable pieces. Dealing with themes of gender, desire and the female body, Mutu uses a great scope of materials to form hybrid creatures and objects, which are familiar but also strange.
The spider-like legs of the heavily ornamented blackthrones (2011–2012) cast eerie shadows, one adorned in gold foil glints under a dim spotlight. Each throne is different, exuding its own personality and presence. The idea of the table and the ritual of gathering about it is a recurring thought in Mutu’s work. My Dirty Little Heaven (2010) sees a table set in the centre of the room, bottles suspended above drip milk and wine into scattered bowls for the duration of the exhibition, a reference to the artist’s experience of the Rwandan massacre of 1994. A heavier table appears in the enclosed set of Exhuming Gluttony: Another Requiem (2006). Almost like a hunter’s lair, animal pelts hang from the ceiling and red wine stains the table surface. Bullet holes pepper the far wall, resembling a constellation of stars as light filters in.
Mutu’s three-dimensional moonscape Perhaps the Moon Will Save Us (2008) combines an overstuffed, sagging moon made up of furs and costume jewellery, set against a sky of collaged flying pigs. Volcanic mounds made from packing tape rise from the ground to form an otherworldly and immersive space. Mutu’s mysterious world intertwines beauty and violence – expressions of loss, but also a glittering, silver sense of hope.
Wangechi Mutu is showing at the MCA until August 14, 2013.