Wangechi Mutu | MCA Exhibition 23 May – 14 August 2013


Discover the diverse practice of Kenyan-born, Brooklyn–based artist Wangechi Mutu in this free major presentation at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney featuring collage, drawing, sculpture, installation and video. This will not only be the first time the Kenyan-born, Brooklyn-based artist’s works have been shown in Australia, but also the most comprehensive international survey of her work yet.

Messy splendour – a riot of colour and texture. It’s a combination of things that, on one hand are quite beautiful but on the other, quite abject, confronting and visceral. It’s an extraordinary and strongly bodily experience.
– Senior Curator Rachel Kent
Known primarily for her collages, Mutu examines representations of the black female body in popular media, looking at stereotyping, voyeurism, sexual desire and eroticism. Some collages are small and jewel-like, others are two-metre long sweeping expanses. Be drawn into contemplations on beauty, consumerism, colonialism, race, and gender through Mutu’s exquisite, provocative works. See how she combines drawn elements and image fragments from a variety of media including fashion magazines and ethnographic journals, as well as representations of the female body from pornography, in her collages. These images are then knitted together with rich surface ornamentation: watercolour paints, costume jewelry, fur, bits of plants and beads.
In addition to the collages, Mutu’s new “experiential” installation pieces – complete with elements of sound, light and scent – are to be displayed, transforming the gallery into a “dense sculptural environment”. This will the very first time they have been shown in a major exhibit. Perhaps the highlight of the exhibition will be ‘Exhuming Gluttony: Another Requiem’(2006), which features surfaces groaning with excess, a large banquet table onto which suspended red wine bottles drip their contents creating blood-like blooms. The effect is unsettling, even sinister.

Exhuming Gluttony (Another Requiem), 2011.
Mixed media installation, Animal pelts, wood, bottles, wine, packing tape, and blankets, variable dimensions.
Installation view at Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, 2011.
Courtesy of the artist.

Mutu’s collaged bodies are frequently subjected to strange deformations or embellishments, combining elements of humour, pathos and sexuality in often surprising ways. Collage works featured at the MCA include the Bedroom Masks series, The Ark Collection (2006) of erotic collaged postcards, and the X Ray series (2008) of strangely morphed life forms which sit between human, animal and plant worlds. The single collage Intertwined (2003) extends this theme with its elegant depiction of two conjoined female figures with canine heads.

Watch video works featuring the artist in a range of roles that poetically illustrate the realities of Africa’s colonial past: hacking at branches with a machete, endlessly scrubbing soap circles on a dirt floor, and walking into the ocean while singing Amazing Grace in Kikuyu, recalling the loss of life at sea on the slave ships bound for America or Europe.

My Dirty Little Heaven (2010) is a series of collages, videos and sculptural elements combined in a dramatic interplay; long slatted tables recall those used to stack exhumed bodies following the Rwandan genocide. The work was originally commissioned by Deutsche Bank, the Major Partner of the exhibition, and created as part of the Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year program.

Your immersion in other-worldly spaces continues as Mutu transforms a vast gallery wall into a three-dimensional lunar landscape. Perhaps the Moon Will Save Us features an overstuffed, sagging moon made from fur pelts and costume jewellery; tiny collaged pigs with fur wings ‘fly’ across the wall, a satirical play on the idea of hope in a world gone mad. Rising from the gallery floor, the artist’s Mountetas – volcanic mounds made from packing tape – also evoke a strange alien world.

Be captivated by Mutu’s storytelling power in the haunting Black Thrones (2011–12), towering constructions made from chairs, plastic bags, ribbon, cassette tape and feathers reflecting the ‘hush arbour’ – an area surrounded by trees where African-American slaves would gather to mourn their losses.

Other features Ciné Kenya has done about Wangechi Mutu’s work include an intimate interview at her home here, an exhibition of more than 50 of her works at Nasher Museum of Art, her collaboration with other prolific artists here, her collaboration with musician Santigold, and finally, her incredible work as the artistic director for a Pegasus Warning music video.


Artist Wangechi Mutu in her Brooklyn studio, 2012. Photo by Kathryn Parker Almanas.

Admission: FREE

140 George Street
The Rocks
Sydney, Australia
T +61 2 9245 2400
Mon – Wed: 10:00 – 17:00
Thu: 10:00 – 21:00
Fri – Sun: 10:00 – 17:00

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