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Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey

DATES October 11, 2013 through March 09, 2014
  • Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey
    Over the past fifteen years, Wangechi Mutu has emerged as one of the most inventive and sophisticated artists of her generation, using her distinctive voice to tackle vital issues such as globalization, colonialism, and cultural constructions of the female body. The first survey in the United States for this multidisciplinary artist, Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey features more than 50 works from the mid-1990s to the present, including her signature large-scale collages alongside new video work, sculptures, site-specific installations, and never-before-seen sketchbook drawings. Highlighting the interaction between her fantastical figures and their otherworldly environments, this exhibition presents the breadth of Mutu’s practice and offers insight into her creative process, artistic development, and critical strategies.

    Born in 1972 in Nairobi, Kenya, Mutu moved to New York in 1992 and has been based in Brooklyn since 1994. Best known for her spectacular and provocative collages, she embraces a hybridized aesthetic that brings together a multifaceted, twenty-first-century global sensibility with haunting reminders of the historical conflicts that have shaped our world.

    Combining readymade materials and magazine cutouts, she samples liberally from sources as diverse as African traditions, international politics, the fashion industry, pornography, and science fiction to produce her mashed-up, Afrofuturist vision of the universe.

    Believing that cultures project their deepest desires and worst fears onto women’s bodies, Mutu uses feminine forms to investigate colonialism and displacement, religion and ritual, consumerism and environmental degradation, international perceptions of Africa, and the eroticization of the black female body. Part human, animal, plant, and machine, simultaneously unnerving and alluring, her figures defy easy categorization and identification. Bringing her interconnected ecosystems to life through sculptural installations and videos, Mutu encourages audiences to consider these mythical worlds as places for cultural, psychological, and sociopolitical exploration. Through juxtaposed materials, cultural references, and images at once critical and seductive, she challenges us to confront real-world contradictions and complexities as she takes us on an enchanting, transformative journey.
  • May 1, 2013 Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey on view October 11, 2013, through March 9, 2014

    The artist’s most comprehensive survey in the United States to date, Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey brings together more than fifty works from the mid-1990s to the present by this internationally-renowned Brooklyn-based artist. The exhibition features Mutu’s signature large-scale collages alongside video works, never-before-seen sketchbook drawings, a site-specific wall piece, and immersive installations.

    Born in 1972 in Nairobi, Kenya, Mutu scrutinizes globalization through works that combine found materials and magazine cutouts with sculpture and painted imagery. Sampling from sources as diverse as African traditions, international politics, the fashion industry, pornography, and science fiction, her work explores issues of gender, race, war, colonialism, global consumption, and the exoticization of the black female body.

    On view will be Mutu’s monumental collages, among them new and rarely seen works, thematically selected to focus on the relationship between her figures and their otherworldly environments. Both lushly tropical and post-apocalyptic, her Afrofuturist landscapes feature cyborgian figures pieced together from human, animal, machine, and monster parts. Commissioned for the exhibition and created in collaboration with the recording artist Santigold, Mutu’s first-ever animated video—The End of Eating Everything (2013)—expands upon these themes while translating her aesthetic into a new medium.

    As a central element of the exhibition, selections from Mutu’s sketchbooks will trace aspects of her creative process from her student days in the 1990s to current projects and provide insight into the origins of her inspiration. In addition, Mutu will expand on her interest in landscape, transforming the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art with her installations, including a site-specific wall work combining painting, collage and sculpted elements, a hanging sculpture, and evocations of trees and roots that encroach upon portions of the gallery.

    Wangechi Mutu earned a BFA at Cooper Union College, New York, in 1996 and a MFA at Yale University in 2000. Her work has been shown in solo exhibitions at the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin; the Wiels Contemporary Museum, Brussels; the Art Gallery of Ontario; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art; and other venues. A participant in numerous biennial and triennial exhibitions, she exhibited her work most recently in the 2012 Kochi-Muziris Bienniale in India. In 2004, a site-specific wall drawing by Mutu was part of the Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition Open House: Working in Brooklyn, and her work has been featured in group exhibitions at many other major museums nationally and internationally, including the Palais de Tokyo, Paris; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tate Liverpool; the Vancouver Art Gallery; Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Wangechi Mutu was named as the first Deutsche Bank “Artist of the Year” in 2010 and is the recipient of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant, among others.

    Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey is accompanied by an illustrated full-color catalogue that includes an interview with the artist conducted by the exhibition’s curator, Trevor Schoonmaker, and essays by Schoonmaker, art historian Kristine Stiles, and critic and musician Greg Tate.

    Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey is organized by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University by Trevor Schoonmaker, Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Curator of Contemporary Art. .The Brooklyn presentation is organized by Saisha Grayson, Assistant Curator, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum.

    A variety of public programs, including films, performances, and talks, will be presented in conjunction with the exhibition. For more information visit

    This exhibition is made possible by the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation.

    Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey exhibition
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