Intertwined | Wangechi Mutu’s Fantastical Forms On View

The New Museum celebrates Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu's twenty-five-year career with an impressive solo exhibition presenting over 100 works.

by GRIOT - Published on 27/03/2023
Exhibition view. Wangechi Mutu, In Two Canoe, 2022. COURTESY New Museum. Photo: Dario Lasagni.

The artistic research of Wangechi Mutu (Nairobi, 1972) obtained the first recognition with the collage works with which she explores the Black female body and the stereotypes that inhabit it through the themes of camouflage, transformation and mutation. Mutu’s multimedia process embraces various techniques to give life to fantastic narratives with mythological and folkloric origins enriched by stratifications of socio-historical references.

Exhibition view. Wangechi Mutu, Interwined. New Museum, New York (2 March–4 June 2023). COURTESY Ocula. Photo: Charles Roussel.

Housed in the underground floors and on the facade of the museum, Wangechi Mutu: Intertwined (2 March–4 June 2023) welcomes the entire evolution of Mutu’s practice, that includes painting, collage, drawing, sculpture, film and performance, as well as representing the most recent sculptural creations with which the artist highlights the legacy of colonialism, African and diasporic cultural traditions, and globalization, all themes explored at length in her decades-long career.

Exhibition view. Wangechi Mutu, Interwined. New Museum, New York (2 March–4 June 2023). COURTESY Ocula. Photo: Charles Roussel.

To pay homage to the artist and her relationship with New York, the museum has extended the layout of the exhibition to several floors, exceptionally upsetting its exhibition policies. The first floor of the museum is devoted to the connections between her collages and sculptures. The second floor examines the evolution of her sculptural practice along with video and collage works. The third floor brings together collages from the Subterranea series (2021-22) alongside recent large-scale bronzes. Installed in the museum’s atrium is the sculpture In Two Canoes (2021), which was recently presented at the Storm King Art Center. Works from the Screens series are on view in the basement. Some of the most significant works on display are the famous Sick Planets, vinyl installations from 2007, and the recently completed bronze sculpture Crocodylus.

Wangechi Mutu, Crocodylus, 2021. COURTESY the artist and Gladstone Gallery.

Mutu’s works, contextually characterized and transnationally appealing, compare tradition with the multiple contemporary realities, offering the viewer new visions, infused concepts of feminism, Afrofuturism and interspecies symbiosis.

In a recent comment curator Margot Norton said:With her emphasis on, and use of, natural materials, and the elemental themes of water and earth, Mutu’s return to Nairobi in 2015 marked a shift in her practice, where she created these majestic sculptures out of natural material, such as wood, soil, and stone, sourced from the areas surrounding her home and studio in Nairobi,”and added: Mutu’s work presciently addresses some of today’s most vital questions concerning inextricable ties to one another, our ecosystems, and all life forms with which we share our planet.

Wangechi Mutu, Yo Mama, 2003. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection Gift, 2005. COURTESY the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles. Photo: Robert Edemeyer.

The exhibition is realized with the support of the Henry Luce Foundation and Ed Bradley Family Foundation, Agnes Gund, Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, among others.

Biographical Notes

Wangechi Mutu (b. 1972, Nairobi, Kenya) has lived and worked in New York since 1990. She studied at Cooper Union, and later at Yale where her career took off in the 2000s. Over the years, her connection with the local area has led to various commissioned productions, including the one for the New Museumthe Studio Museum in Harlem, and the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in 2019 and the exhibition at Storm King Art Center, in 2022.

‘Wangechi Mutu: Intertwined’, curated by Margot Norton, (Allen and Lola Goldring Senior Curator), and Vivian Crockett (Curator) with Ian Wallace (Curatorial Assistant), and inaugurated last February, will be open until June 4, 2023

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