23 May – 11 August 2013
Curator: Rachel Kent
Wangechi Mutu is known for her artworks in which she mixes media and appropriates imagery from diverse popular sources. Born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1972 and based in New York, Mutu draws on her experience as an African woman and migrant, creating sumptuous, layered works that explore ‘otherness’ and themes of alienation, race and female representation. Spanning the past ten years of her career, this exhibition represents the artist’s first major presentation in Australia. It comprises a series of installations or spatial environments across the MCA’s Level 1 galleries that visitors can walk through and around, encountering objects, videos and collages, as well as constructed and painted elements that have been created especially in the spaces.
Mutu’s collages incorporate image fragments cut from high fashion, hunting and motorcycle magazines as well as ethnographic journals and pornography. Joined together in imaginative human, animal and machine formations, they are augmented by delicate watercolour imagery and embellished with costume jewellery, glitter, fur and dried plant matter. Scale is significant for Mutu’s collages, which range from postcard and A4 scale works on paper through to much larger works on sheets of polyester. Central to the works is a search for the black female body and how it is represented in popular media: in the artist’s words, “where women are psychologically and culturally placed, and how we value or devalue them.”
Principles of accumulation and layering extend beyond Mutu’s collages to encompass her sculptures and mixed media environments. In these works, she combines diverse materials to create meaning: packing tape ‘mountains’ and moons made from sagging fur pelts; ceremonial ‘trees’ fashioned from grey felt blankets, with drooping fruits made from garbage bags and string; elevated, theatrical chairs or ‘black thrones’ adorned with tinsel and feathers; and suspended wine bottles that drip their blood-like contents onto tables or the floor below.
Mutu’s use of humble materials from everyday life, and her embrace of messy splendour, does away with the pristine ‘white cube’ often associated with museums. Her galleries are instead lively, colourful spaces, filled with makeshift forms and tactile surfaces. Walls are pock-marked with red, chiselled gouges that resemble flesh wounds, distressed with hand-painted water stains, or covered by blankets as if to protect or insulate them. There is a sense of gluttonous excess in some works, an idea that is played out through the incorporation of groaning banquet tables that might, alternately, double as biers for corpses.
Mutu’s lavish environments are expanded, in some instances, by videos that feature the artist herself in a range of roles associated with women’s work. These modestly staged pieces are the only instances in which Mutu comes to the fore, revealing herself physically yet remaining silent, her body instead speaking volumes about the suffering of women in impoverished or conflict-riven circumstances.
JEFF WALL Photographs
1 May – 28 July 2013
Curator: Gary Dufour (Art Gallery of Western Australia)
MCA Curatorial Liaison: Judith Blackall
Jeff Wall is one of the most renowned photographers working today. His innovative practice has played a key role in establishing photography at the forefront of contemporary art.
The two strands that interweave throughout Wall’s career are represented in the 27 photographs selected for this major exhibition curated for Australia. One aspect is small-scale, thoughtful observations of things such as a clipped branch or washcloth that show Wall’s attentiveness to what he calls the ‘obscure, unswept corners of everyday life’. The second aspect is the more technically complex and constructed images. These pictures, usually enlarged to life scale, are inspired by scenes of modern life, cinematic conventions, artistic genres in painting as well as photography, and literature. Wall’s photographs have a detail and clarity that seem to promise revelation and yet, as the artist notes, his images of the everyday touch on a ‘something undisclosed’ – that is not easy to define.
Jeff Wall was born in Vancouver, Canada in 1946. He studied Fine Art at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver from 1964 to 1970, majoring in painting, sculpture, photography and conceptual art. He moved to London in 1970 to attend the Courtauld Institute of Art, and returned to Vancouver in 1973. He did not complete any art works between 1971 and 1977. Travelling in Europe in 1977, Wall encountered again the paintings by Manet, Goya, Velázquez, and others that had always fascinated him and recognised a connection between that work and possibilities he had sensed in photography. He began to make his ‘cinematographic’ photographs as transparencies displayed in light boxes in 1977, and completed his first successful picture, The Destroyed Room, in 1978. Since that time Wall’s work has been the subject of many major exhibitions and publications. He began making traditional black & white prints in 1996, and inkjet prints in 2000.
JEFF WALL Photographs was organised by the Art Gallery of Western Australia in association with the MCA. It was on display at AGWA 26 May – 10 September 2012, then travelled to the National Gallery of Victoria for exhibition 30 December 2012 – 17 March 2013.
Volume One: MCA Collection
Opens 29 March 2012
Curator: Glenn Barkley
Volume One: MCA Collection features over 280 works by more than 170 Australian artists acquired since the founding of the MCA in May 1989. Volume One reflects the diversity of Australian contemporary art over more than 20 years, including works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists which are integrated into the different themes, the consolidation of film and video practice from a marginal to central position, the emergence of diverse cultural voices and the impact of feminism as well as ephemeral and performative practices.
The selection encompasses the range of media used by artists today: from wall painting and artists’ books to photography, painting, sculpture, weaving and installation. Video is presented both as installation and curated single-screen programs in the dedicated Screen Space. Works are included by artists across generations – those at the beginning of their careers alongside artists who continue to produce important artwork over careers spanning 50 years or more.
Decisions about what to acquire are made by the MCA Curatorial team and are much debated. A diversity of opinion about what to collect is essential in a contemporary museum. Selected by MCA curator Glenn Barkley, Volume One is his particular reflection on the MCA’s Collection.
Volume One: MCA Collection also reflects the MCA’s history of solo and group exhibitions by Australian artists such as Primavera and Focus, and with related publications, acknowledges and celebrates the MCA‘s commitment to supporting Australian artists.
Volume One: MCA Collection images all installation views, Museum of Contemporary Art, 2012. Images courtesy and © the artists.