NEW YORK — Well known for her collage work, Wangechi Mutu has turned to ceramics featuring globular viral objects, larger-than-life prayer beads, and a cast iron sculpture of a nguva or ‘water woman’ in her exhibition Ndoro Na Miti at Gladstone Gallery (New York, January 27 – March 25, 2017). The title of the exhibition comes from the Gikuyu words for ‘mud’ and ‘trees,’ the main materials used to create the work, The New York Times writes.
Her elaborate collages straddle beauty and horror, flesh and spirit, art and fashion, East and West. Made by cutting and pasting the glossy, exclusionary images that mass culture foists on women, they retaliate with fantastical concoctions of otherness — racial, cultural, physical — that can stop you in your tracks…Excitement all but evaporates when Ms. Mutu turns to sculpture and installation, as evidenced by “Ndoro Na Miti,” her show at the Gladstone Gallery and her first in New York of only sculpture.
Mutu tells Whitewall, she’s not trying to overthink the dirt and brush materials she’s working with because of their prevalence in her Nairobi studio home base.
“The main reason that I’m able to think with objects and materials at the forefront is because I have access to them in my Nairobi studio. It’s a very natural and immediate reaction to an environment that I was raised in and an environment that speaks to the many issues that relate to the deep mythologies that are present in earth materials.”
Mutu’s choice of materials rather transform the ordinary into works Gladstone says command inquiry into the relationship between human existence and environment, producing interactions both intimate and challenging.
Adding gravity to these roughhewn totems, each invokes the psychic and social struggle for control over bodies through capitalism, the fetish, and disease. Seating of grey blankets grounds the installation, inviting audiences ‘to enter a place and re-think themselves.’
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