Wangechi Mutu’s “The Fantastic Journey”

Having previously written about the very ….how should I put it? well-documented Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, I’ve also been ruminating on the truly fantastical collection of work on display in the same museum, but with no cameras allowed, by Wangechi Mutu. The exhibit is quiet, so that you can feel the air between the pieces in the gallery. The title “The Fantastic Journey” refers to the exhibits span of Mutu’s work from 1990’s to present. These stunning large scale collages, installations, and videos are full of twisted, taunting roots, earth and creatures that look somewhat human, but are actually much more than that. They are history, global suffering, deliriously excitable, and possibly, beneath the surface suffering and downtrodden. They are feminine forms filled out with glitter, cutouts that look like they’re from magazines, the smoothest surface with the grittiest implications. The textures are strong. The bodies are ready for a bloody fight; as willing to dance as they are to protect. With their claws, talons, tendrils, and other quite luscious features, they excite and repel all at once; paired together, an attractive curve sweeps into an unearthly bump, scales bedeck breasts, and darkness beckons between spread thighs. The creatures conjure images of confident, striding, lustful, determined women with their open kneeling, back-bending, and spread arms. Mutu’s work makes the viewer reconsider their vision of what it means to be a woman, by shadowing beauty with a strength of spirit that Mutu manifests as fierce, hungry -for what they want and need- female bodies. Meeting those forms in the quiet was a soul-rending experience.

Wangechi Mutu’s “The Fantastic Journey” is on display at the Brooklyn Museum until this Saturday, March 9, 2014. Go experience the journey!

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