Now, I am someone who is fully willing to admit that I don’t really understand contemporary art. There’s something about its abstractness that I just don’t get. Often, the message of the piece is completely lost on me. If I’m in a museum, I’m either:
a) standing there looking at it trying really hard to come up with an interpretation
b) looking at it and pretending that I’m thinking so that other people around me don’t think I’m an idiot
On March 24th, I decided to take a little trip to Montreal for a much needed change of scenery and to visit a few friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. Dr. Digital took me for grilled cheese at Lapin Pressé. We caught up over his mocachino and my grilled cheese à la guyère and onions. Most delicious indeed! It was really great to see him again after about a year. It’s great having friends that you don’t need to see often, but that you can pick up right where you left off as soon as you meet.
Between my breakfast with Dr. Digital and before meeting up with Ctwister, I decided to venture into the Museum of Contemporary Art. They had three exhibitions: Valérie Blass, Wangechi Mutu, and Ghada Amer. I had completely different opinions for each exhibition.
To be very straight-forward, I didn’t understand a thing with Valérie Blass. I could read up on her work and then write about it, pretending like I was really smart, but I respect you (the readers) and myself too much for that. Her exhibition consisted of many different types of sculptures. What did they mean? I have no idea! If you’d like to know more about this artist, click here.
The second artist at the exhibition was named Ghada Amer. I did not enjoy her works one bit, at the exception of Revolution 2.0. Everything else was just not what I considered art, but could easily be debated as art… but I’ll get to that in a bit.
Ghada Amer is an artist that mixes brodery and paint on canvas as her main art materials. What I enjoyed so much about Revolution 2.0 was the sense of movement in the piece with the brodery, the second movement created by the use of colours, and thirdly that you can tell approximately where the explosion is coming from, but you can’t pinpoint the exact location. I found the piece to be well thought-out and executed. Perhaps there is a deeper meaning to it, but I examined it as an instrumentalist piece, in which the forms and lines themselves made into art. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the rest of exhibition. Since I have been typing this entry at work for the last 5 days during my lunch breaks, I will not post an image of another exhibited work because it is of a pornographic nature. So let’s save me from getting fired for looking up what can be considered artsy pornography, and also save the eyes of any readers who happen to be reading this at their job. If you would like to see more works from Ghada Amer, click here for the artist’s website. Many are included in the Paintings section as well s the Drawings & Prints.
First of all, the main reason why this exhibition upset me was the fact that there was no warning prior to entering the area that there was pornographic content in the following art pieces. As a result, I was viewing the exhibition alongside a mother and her two 6 to 8 year old children. I overheard them talk and the youngest had a lot of trouble understanding what she was seeing, as well as asking why the women in some paintings were in pain (remember the reference of sex being naked wrestling in the eyes of children? oh the innocent!). I strongly believed that a sign with a warning of adult content should have been presented at the beginning of the exhibition. PLUS, you had to walk through the Ghada Amer exhibition to get to Valérie Blass, so you can’t even skip it to view the other artist if you wanted to. I found this to be incredibly irresponsible on behalf of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Montreal. They are allowed to show pieces called art with pornographic images, but they are a family museum. I feel bad for any parents who brought their kids into the exhibit not knowing what to expect. Moving on!
In my eyes, the works of Ghada Amer presented are not considered art (at the exception of her works similar to Revolution 2.0). In my opinion, in order for something to be art, there has to be a well thought-out play of colour, light, shape, form, lines, movement, cultural significance, or meaning. Seeing images straight out of a porno magazine of women masterbating and eating each other out was not the case. If I really wanted to see that, I’d open a porno mag, not go to a museum in the company of children. You could argue that her ability to master the craft of broidery is what makes it art, but I would have been far more impressed if there was some originality behind her works, if she presented women in sexual acts without exploiting them. It really looked like she copied images out of her husband’s (or her own, let’s not judge sexual orientation here) magazine.
After that lengthy paragraph, I can not deny that a lot of works we consider as art today were once considered to be pornographic at the time. Many of the depictions of the goddess Venus/Aphrodite are of her naked and in some compromising position. However, I feel like these are art because thought has been put behind the lines of her body, the way the scene is lit, and the story it tells.
To be quite honest, I could go on forever between the debate of what is considered pronographic and what is considered art. The truth is that the definition of art is so open to interpretation that a red circle on a blank canvas is considered art. I can only leave you to form your own opinion.
The third artist I saw was named Wangechi Mutu. She had 2 scultptures, 2 installations, 1 mural (if that is what its called) and 6 collage works. To be quite frank, I did not understand anything except for the collages. Perhaps if I had joined a a tour group I would have been a lot more enlightened by the works, but I didn’t want to wait an hour for the next tour guide’s shift to begin.
What I enjoyed so much about Wangehi Mutu’s collages was her portrayal of women and
beauty in her works. Mutu cut out eyes, noses, ears, mouths, and other parts of the body (legs and hands) who on their own are seen as beautiful. However, once she puts them together on the canvas, all of these singularly beautiful traits look strange and distorted together. I interpreted that the image of beauty in women is itself distorted. She occasionally mixes the images of human shape and beauty with metal and manmade objects, perhaps to indicate man’s desire to constantly change what is natural.
The truth is, there is no way for me to really explain the works of Wangechi Mutu since there were no explanations next to the pieces. I’m also sure that there are images and symbols related to African culture, that are unfortunately lost on me. What is important though is the fact that I found her images evoking enough for me to lookup more information about her works, her culture, and her life. Despite my lack of knowledge towards Mutu’s culture, there was still something in the pieces that I could relate to: it carried something universal. One day, I would really like to see an exhibition of her collages and see the progression of her career through the various themes she presents.
I will leave you with this last piece by Wangechi Mutu.
Happy Friday (I can’t believe this took me a week)!