Females carry the marks, language and nuances of their culture more than the male. Anything that is desired or despised is always placed on the female body.
—  Wangechi Mutu
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Inspirational Art by Kenyan ArtistbWangechi Mutu

Wangechi Mutu is an African artist renowned for her haunting and dramatic female figures. An artist from Nairobi, Kenya, Mutu creates painted and collaged images of the female body offering a commentary on feminist and racial issues such as the history of women’s representation, cultural migration, global identity, colonial legacies, exoticism, and voyeuristic fascination.

Mutu’s work has been featured in museums and galleries all around the world exhibited in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Miami Art Museum, Tate Modern in London, the Studio Museum in Harlem in New York, Kunstpalast Dusseldorf in Germany, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. She participated in the 2004 Gwangju Biennale in South Korea. Her work has been featured in several major exhibitions including Greater New York at the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center and The Museum of Modern Art in New York, Black President at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York and the Barbican in London, and USA Today at The Royal Academy in London. As a unique visual artist Mutu’s work has important political and social implications.

Wangechi Mutu observes: “Females carry the marks, language and nuances of their culture more than the male. Anything that is desired or despised is always placed on the female body.” Piecing together magazine imagery with painted surfaces and found materials, Mutu’s collages explore the split nature of cultural identity, referencing colonial history, fashion and contemporary African politics.

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Wangechi Mutu

Kenyan-born Wangechi Mutu has trained as both a sculptor and anthropologist. Her work explores the contradictions of female and cultural identity and makes reference to colonial history, contemporary African politics and the international fashion industry. Drawing from the aesthetics of traditional crafts, science fiction and funkadelia, Mutu’s works document the contemporary myth making of endangered cultural heritage.

Piecing together magazine imagery with painted surfaces and found materials, Mutu’s elaborate collages mimic amputation, transplant operations and bionic prosthetics. Her figures become satirical mutilations. Their forms are grotesquely marred through perverse modification, echoing the atrocities of war or self-inflicted improvements of plastic surgery. Mutu examines how ideology is very much tied to corporeal form. She cites a European preference to physique that has been inflicted on and adapted by Africans, resulting in both social hierarchy and genocide.

Mutu’s figures are equally repulsive and attractive. From corruption and violence, Mutu creates a glamorous beauty. Her figures are empowered by their survivalist adaptation to atrocity, immunised and ‘improved’ by horror and victimisation. Their exaggerated features are appropriated from lifestyle magazines and constructed from festive materials such as fairy dust and fun fur. Mutu uses materials which refer to African identity and political strife: dazzling black glitter symbolises western desire which simultaneously alludes to the illegal diamond trade and its terrible consequences. Her work embodies a notion of identity crisis, where origin and ownership of cultural signifiers becomes an unsettling and dubious terrain.

Wangechi Mutu at the Saatchi Gallery

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Wangechi Mutu at the Brooklyn Museum

Now based in Brooklyn, New York, Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu’s first survey in the United States Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey, spanning from the mid-1990s to the present and featuring more than fifty pieces including Mutu’s signature large-scale collages, video works, never-before-seen sketchbook drawings, a site-specific wall drawing, and sculptural installations, launched at the Brooklyn Museum in New York last week.

Always critically aware and socially conscious, this multimedia body of work explores the vast inner workings of Mutu’s imagination combined with her unique outlook and personal experiences that intersect spaces between clashing cultures, psychological explorations and dynamics of gender, sexuality, self-expression and political positioning.

October: Highlighting African Art & African Artists

I am obsessed with the body. It wasn’t given to me; it was something I came with by being athletic and having a fascination with dress/costume as a way to mutate. I think about the relationship between the femaleness of my body and society’s perception and expectation with me. I get how the body can be dressed up or masked. One can masquerade, and the body is a structure, an infrastructure—kind of like a shell that can move around and create different reactions, for whatever reason, to empower yourself, or, as I said, to disappear or transform.
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Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey at Nasher Museum at Duke University | March 21 - July 21, 2013

Images (from top): Once upon a time she said, I’m not afraid and her enemies became afraid of her The End (2013) / Yo Mama (2003) / Misguided Little Unforgivable Hierarchies (2005) /  (L to R): Riding Death in My Sleep (2002) / Root of All Eves (2010) / The Bride Who Married a Camel’s Head (2009)

Watch on thefutureweird.tumblr.com

LUPITA ON WANGECHI | by Zina Saro Wiwa

Back in 2010, as part of her project “This is My Africa”, Zina Saro Wiwa interviewed Lupita Nyong’o about her love for the work of Wangechi Mutu.

"She creates these new bodies, they’re very elegant, very loud and sensual at the same time, really primitive and yet futuristic […] In Africa there’s all this talk about tension between tradition and modernity, but when these two clash, so many other things come out. And that’s what I feel Wangechi captures, that complexity, that new identity that comes out of an Africa that’s flexing it’s muscles and trying to find its place. - Lupita on Wangechi

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The Afrofuturism of Wangechi Mutu

the Guardian

Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey is a brief (50 pieces) but immersive exploration of the evolution of an artist. Although Mutu is a multimedia artist, she is perhaps best known for her large-scale, wildly colourful collages on Mylar. This thoughtfully presented survey includes presentations in a number of other media: video, site-specific fabric installations and, importantly, selections from the artist’s sketchbooks dating back to 2005, the first time they have been on display. The exhibition rooms themselves are dimly lit with walls cast in soothing earth tones, a common curatorial choice which, in this case, effectively highlights the expansive energy of each piece.

There is no singular question at the core of Mutu’s work. The collages themselves are complex, multi-layered, explosively hued pieces in which many themes are addressed simultaneously. This work is the ultimate existential mash-up. Mutu explores the complexities of this world by asking and answering a thousand questions at once.

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Dedicated to the Cultural Preservation of the African Aesthetic

Jenna’s (Artist) Pick: Wangechi Mutu

Jenna headed to the Brooklyn Museum to check out Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu’s exhibit. here’s closer look at what’s on display, but get there yourself before it closes on March 9…

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Wangechi Mutu’s artwork from the mid-’90s to the present day has been brought together for this exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. Among the highlights are her large-scale collages, never-before-seen sketchbook drawings and her first animation, The End of eating Everything (2013), a collaboration with the hip-hop artist Santigold, who appears in the film.

It should be noted that Wangechi Mutu is especially close to our hearts right now because she has teamed up with the CFDA and Vogue to design two prints in support of a new campaign called BORNFREE, which is geared toward eliminating the transmission of HIV from mother to baby by 2015. Twenty-three designers (and mothers), including Jenna, are designing a limited-edition collection of women’s and children’s clothing and accessories, which will be available in May. All proceeds will go directly to sub-Saharan countries that need the funds first. Watch this space for more details leading up to the launch.

Wangechi Mutu’s A Fantastic Journey exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum runs through March 9.

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Wangechi Mutu

While Mutu employs a variety of mediums including video, installation, and sculpture, she is best known for her large-scale collages on pieces of MylarMutu’s works often make the female body central, and confront the viewer with “plant-like or animal-like elements and intertwined abstract patterns” that merge the organic and the surreal with human forms. These hybrid creatures have bodies made of a combination of machine, animal, human and monster parts.

Mutu constructs these warrior-like females out of magazine cutouts, sculpted and painted surfaces, and found materials.The sources her collage images range from a variety of media, including commercial fashion and lifestyle pornography, and automobile and motorcycle magazines. These distorted yet elegant figures that Mutu creates are based on the concept that, “Females carry the marks, language and nuances of their culture more than the male. Anything that is desired or despised is always placed on the female body.

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Two Tough Women Artists Who Stand Up to the Bad Boys 

“This is an art season that could make you think that the feminist movement never happened,” art critic Deborah Solomon said on WNYC last month.

The fall lineup–Balthus at the Met, Magritte at MoMA, Chris Burden at the New Museum, Robert Indiana at the Whitney, Robert Motherwell at the Guggenheim, and Mike Kelley at MoMA PS1–makes it seem as though the bad boys are not the artists, but the people who program the city’s art museums with a depressing consistency of race and gender.  

There’s some good news, though. Women might be finally getting credit for cave painting, for one thing. Also, the feminist sensibility is alive and well in other art venues, if you know where to look.

Here are two examples: Wangechi Mutu, whose show Fantastic Journey is at  at the Brooklyn Museum, and Renaissance painter Artemisia Gentileschi, whose most violent and famous painting, Judith Slaying Holofernes (ca. 1620), is on loan from the Uffizi to the Art Institute of Chicago

Meet the rest of the “Ten Tough Women Artists Who Stand Up to the Bad Boys” at artnews.com

(From Top): Wangechi Mutu, The Bride Who Married a Camel’s Head, 2009, mixed-media collage on mylar. ©WANGECHI MUTU. COURTESY DEUTSCHE BANK COLLECTION, GERMANY, K20100083. IMAGE COURTESY OF SUSANNE VIELMETTER LOS ANGELES PROJECTS. PHOTO: MATHIAS SCHORMANN. Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes, ca. 1620, oil on canvas. COURTESY GALLERIA DEGLI UFFIZI, FLORENCE.

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