“It’s a bit bizarre”, said an observer quietly to his friend while briskly walking through the Wangechi Mutu This You Call Civilization? exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. At first glance, I would agree with that statement however, after taking an in-depth interest into Mutu’s artwork, I have come to appreciate it. I believe that through her collages, Mutu is bending political, racial and body-image boundaries unlike any other artist that I am aware of. More intriguing is the fact that she is actually getting world-wide recognition from renowned establishments for her politically charged work.
This You Call Civilization? is Mutu’s first major exhibit. It includes a number of her collages ranging in size but all with similar messages dealing with ‘issues of beauty, protest, racism, violence, politics and African identity’. The AGO has done a fairly good job explaining in a creative way who Wangechi Mutu is and where the inspiration for her art comes from. After spending a short half hour walking from one gallery to the other, I was simultaneously amazed and repelled by the visual graphics of Mutu’s collages. I was amazed by the work because Mutu uses a wide variety of original sources to complete her work including cut-outs of body parts and animals from magazines, feathers and glitter, paint and ink, and mixed media that are creatively and thoughtfully put together on Mylar or medical paper. When completed, her work may look revolting but that is only because, unfortunately, we are not accustomed to being exposed to awkward, unpleasant and, perhaps, embarrassing messages through art.
I have to admit that, at first, I was interested in Mutu’s work because she and her art were featured in North American Vogue couple of times in the past few years. None the less, personally experiencing her work and doing extra research on her inspirations, I have become quite a fan and, thankfully, more open-minded towards untraditional art work.
Overall, the exhibit is worth visiting since it is so different from anything else that’s out there.