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Artist's exhibit 'Fantastic Journey' makes its way to South Florida

Wangechi Mutu’s exhibit debuts at North Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art

Erick Johnson | 4/17/2014, 9 a.m.
It’s called ‘Suspended play time.’ Dozens of paper balls covered with recycled plastic are tied to rope as they hang ...

It’s called ‘Suspended play time.’

Dozens of paper balls covered with recycled plastic are tied to rope as they hang at various levels above the floor. Captivating, the artistic display represents the aesthetic talents of Kenya native Wangechi Mutu, who brings the display along with her extensive exhibit, ‘Fantastic Journey’ to the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami.

The exhibit opens Friday and runs through July 6. An opening reception will be held at

7p.m. at the museum, located at 770 NE 125th Street.

‘Suspended play time’ isn’t as complex and abstract as the other works, but it provides a refreshing childlike retreat to counter heavy adult themes of neocolonialism, racism and pervasive sexism in Mutu’s other work.

“It’s a piece you see people walk through, “Mutu said during a phone interview from New York, where her exhibit was on display at the Brooklyn Museum. “It’s a very lively, fun piece.”

Before New York, the exhibit traveled to Los Angeles and other U.S. cities.

‘Fantastic Journey’ represents Mutu’s life and maturity she gained growing up as a young Black woman who moved from Kenya to the United States in 1972. The exhibit includes more than 50 of Mutu’s works from the mid-1990s to the present. They include collages, drawings, sculptures and video presentations. The exhibition features her most iconic collages, rarely seen in early works and other creations.

“It’s about re-examining yourself,” she said. “I had to re-discover my identity.”

On public view for the first time are the artist’s intimate sketchbook drawings, which provide unprecedented insight into her creative process. With her drawings as the foundation, the Nasher Museum commissioned Mutu’s first-ever animated video, ‘The End of Eating Everything.’

In her work, Mutu seeks to dispel misconceptions and exploitation of Black women in media and society. Her exhibit explores many creative, complicated dimensions of Black women.

She uses the feminine form to investigate and critique issues ranging from colonialism to displacement to perceptions of Africa and the eroticization of the Black female body. For this exhibition, she brings her collaged ecosystems to immersive, three-dimensional life. Mutu also challenges real social issues as she takes one on a transformative journey through her enchanted realm. 

“I like to think of beauty as something that can be defined by the individual and not by mainstream society,” Mutu said.

She also creates mythical worlds for cultural, psychological and socio-political exploration.

The composite women who inhabit them are beautifully grotesque and alluring. They are pieced together with human parts, animals, plants, machines and monsters.

This exhibition is Wangechi Mutu’s most comprehensive exhibition to date for the internationally- renowned artist. Over the past 15 years, she has emerged as one of the most inventive and sophisticated artists of her generation, using her voice to tackle critical issues of our time. 

Born in 1972 in Nairobi, Kenya, she moved to New York in 1992. She has lived in Brooklyn since 1997.

Mutu is well-known for her spectacular and provocative collages depicting female figures in various landscapes and settings. Her works include recycled materials from magazine cutouts and other traditional African-American artworks.