Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Flat and Fantastic

... wild and tame, hot and cold... The contrast between the two exhibitions at the MOCA North Miami stirs a gamut of emotions born from the aesthetic experiences and the reflections brought up by the visit of a Fantastic Journey from Wangechi Mutu and Flat Rock from Virginia Overton. It seems that the only links between the two artists are their gender and present location in Brooklyn.

Due to the configuration of the museum, an unavoidable walk through the display from Mutu to reach Overton's show made it even more shocking in its spareness. Two slanted parallel wood panels on each side of the room enclose an unstable space filled with a few objects: a fan hanging from the ceiling moving rhythmically like the pendulum of a grandfather's clock, a giant tire with a battery, heavy industrial pieces... The cold, static objects (except the fan) appear abandoned and if the minimalist work of art includes its surrounding space, in this show, it generates a feeling of mournful emptiness. The visit gets quite short when minimalism has nothing else to say.
In contrast, the exuberant exhibition from Wancheti Mutu gathers collages, drawings, videos, sculptures and installations with a total of 50 works made from the 90's till present.
Her figurative collages are constructed with cutouts from medical texts, glossy magazines, ethnographic periodical  or pornographic publications and materials like fur, feathers, baubles, glitter, fake pearls... result in lush compositions centered on a female character surrounded by luxuriant vegetation. Her "hypersexualized" heroins could be found in science-fiction cartoons and the mythical creatures made of human, plant, animal and machine parts become modern, trans-cultural  Eves, mixture of African goddesses and high class socialites. However, the excitement generated by the view of the large works quickly fades as one progresses along the visit. The repetitious themes, techniques, colors, engender monotony and transform powerful symbols in mere clichés.
The music from Amazing Grace (2005) gives a religious vibe to a video playing on a small screen but the blue sea and the African female swimmer built like a model made it difficult to stay focused on the grim subject, the slave trade.
The installation includes trees built with felt, brown tape and kinky red lingerie tucked into the trunks and branches, Daphne revisited? Suspended Playtime (2008) occupies the whole center of the room with balls made of plastic bags attached to twines hanging from the ceiling. The allusion to a world where children play with discarded material is quite obvious. The simplicity of the installation contrasts with the sophistication of the collages and maybe this is the idea.
 I found the most enthralling piece in the smaller room, next to a display of  drawings in glass cases. Eat Cake, 2012 is a performance piece recorded in a black and white video near a river. It features the artist in full garb, white dress, platform shoes, nails like claws, unveiling a chocolate cake and then stuffing herself, smearing herself with it in this scatological piece about gluttony well illustrated by this quote from Mutu "... in your mind you envision yourself a butterfly but still you find yourself on your knees".

...overwhelming and underwhelming...


View of the exhibition  "a Fantastic Journey" from Wangechi Mutu
Site specific installation from Virginia Overton in front of MOCA North Miami

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