Studio Lecture Series: Wangechi Mutu
Wangechi Mutu is a Kenyan-born artist who creates, lives and reigns in Brooklyn, New York. Her work is an active personal critique and engagement in the complexities of the daily issues, situations, and environments that affect some of the most disempowered beings of our planet. And yet, Mutu simultaneously reveals the power within. Through her post-global dialogues she masterfully unfolds the complexities of gender, culture, and mass media imagery. In Mutu's haunting works, the female body is a primary site of engagement and provocation. Her elegantly horrific figures lurk in a hybrid world, trapped between consciousness and unconsciousness, silences and noises, life and death, real and unreal.For scholar Michael Veal, Mutu’s dreams and nightmares evince an intricate matrix of codes, signs, and inscriptions. “At once primitivist and post-human, Wangechi’s bodies and body parts are rarely merely human.” Often beguilingly violent, Mutu complicates both her relationship to “Africa” and “the West.” Veal asserts, “Straddling the symbiotic spheres of Africa and the West, Wangechi’s ruminations assert the female figure as the most vulnerable receptacle of global forces, but reclaim territory by simultaneously casting woman as the most potent agent of regeneration.” Content to obsess on the hyper-realist styles evident in both the fashion industry and photojournalism, Mutu’s most potent work divulges a mystery described by poet Jyoti Argade as a “citational terrain.” A psychosexual unhome that pushes and pulls at our ecstatic fears and deepest joys. Mutu is our guide on a mental safari of the body-as-space. The artist's signature aesthetic cuts and mixes a multitude of sources: medical diagrams, glossy magazines, anthropological and botanical texts, pornographic materials and traditional African arts, travel postcards, and mechanical and hunting publications. Combined with tactile materials like glitter, faux pearls, packing tape, rhinestones, synthetic and real hair, Mutu’s fleshy images occupy an imaginary dominion charged with physical and conceptual resonances, achieving a prototypical form of visual mythography. Wangechi Mutu was the recipient of Deutsche Bank’s first Artist of the Year award (2010). She has exhibited at major institutions including recent one-person shows at Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, Wiels Contemporary Art Center, Brussels; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Miami Art Museum. Her work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art; The Studio Museum in Harlem; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Blanton Museum, Austin, TX; The Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art; and Tate Modern and Saatchi Gallery in London.