Okwui Enwezor- Extra Credit

Okwui Enwezor visited our school, and shared an extensive and thorough analysis of Wangechi Mutu’s art. Okwui is a prestigious curator, who has dealt with a vast amount of art throughout his career. He established his credibility when one of our teachers introduced him, and she mentioned all of the accomplishments he had. Okwui mentioned in his lecture that he focuses on three factors of the art he analyzes. The first one, is the art must be contemporary African art. The next one is the mere interest he has in contemporary African art. The third is, “How do these two areas converge to give us what artists do today?” -Enwezor. He utilized these factors throughout his presentation of Wangechi Mutu’s work. He showed the beauty of her work, and also the exotic and shocking factor it also possesses.

Enwezor described the general methods Mutu used for her art. She used images of naked bodies, collages, videos, and drawings. She implemented many of these methods in all of her artwork. The first images Enwezor showed were very surprising, and were in the nature of pornography. He described these images as pornography, and that many people are repulsed and some enjoy these images. Mutu utilized the female body as a sex organ, to show the stereotypes that can arise from this. She shows how women are portrayed in society. Women are nothing more than sex objects. The theme of her art always creates many emotional and powerful comments about it. It is because of her unorthodox styles and themes. Her form of art is relatively new and people do not know what to think about it yet. An example of her art is “The Ark Collection.” In these pieces pornography, lesbianism, and eroticism are clearly displayed. The images present in the pieces are of women kissing, and also one nude woman who is in a sexually erotic pose. The theme of these collages makes her work highly controversial, and also stereotypical. The fact that she uses real images in her collages makes the viewer realize that women are treated as sexual objects in society. Mutu wants to prove the stereotypes of women are true within our society. Enwezor explained all of this to us when he visited in great detail. He allowed the viewers to have their own opinions on the pieces and he also discussed other people’s opinions on Mutu’s art. He talked about the impact her work has on society, and how it shows what she thinks about society.

The next pieces Enwezor discussed were the piece “Falling Heads” and “Mud Fountain.” Falling heads is displaying exactly what the title is saying. Mutu drew and painted many heads that cover the entire canvas. She made them very grotesque looking to prove her point. The point of this was to display social violence. Enwezor talked about how Mutu displayed violence in her art. The heads in this piece appear to be mutilated. Mutu wants the viewer to think of death and violence when they look at her piece, but more importantly social violence. She again wants society to realize what happens within it, mostly towards the African-American culture. Enwezor talked about this subject as well, and how the heads appear to be severed from the bodies and mutilated. The next piece of art is a video titled “Mud Fountain.” Enwezor explains that Mutu used her actual body in this performance piece. Enwezor discusses in detail how she used her own naked body to further prove her points. The “Mud Fountain” is shown in a dark cell like place, with not a lot of light. Mutu is shown in very awkward and disturbing poses. This was meant to evoke social violence, and also show the female body as a sexual object once again. This piece was mostly meant to refer to social violence, because of the dark tones of the lighting and wall background. This piece was not meant to be content or serene. It leaves the viewer on edge and the viewer would expect something bad to happen.

Okwui Enwezor stated in his lecture that “Artists are supposed to go where they are not supposed to go.” He further proved his statement by discussing the unorthodox and shocking style of Wangechi Mutu’s artwork. How it went against the usual forms of art, the forms that are mostly accepted by society. Good art is supposed to challenge and further extend these common themes of contemporary art.  He explained to us other people’s opinions on her work, and also what he thought about it. He went through a large and detailed analysis of her work, which opened up my eyes to the themes Mutu established and wanted to communicate to her viewers. Enwezor has shown me what a professional analysis of art should be like. I enjoyed his lecture, and I now know more about contemporary art and also the hidden themes within Wangechi Mutu’s art.

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