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A Fantastic Journey - Wangechi Mutu in Sydney and Durham


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A Fantastic Journey
Wangechi Mutu in Sydney and Durham

In 2010, Wangechi Mutu exhibited the project My Dirty Little Heaven at the Deutsche Guggenheim as Deutsche Bank’s “Artist of the Year.” Now, the works of the Kenyan artist, who lives in New York, will be on show in two renowned museums. The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Sydney presents a Deutsche Bank-sponsored solo exhibition, while the Nasher Museum shows the artist’s first major show in the US, titled A Fantastic Journey. The museum is located on the campus of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina; the so-called “Harvard of the South” is considered to be one of the leading universities in the US. The exhibition also includes the collage The Bride Who Married a Camel’s Head (2009) from the Deutsche Bank Collection.

Both shows present the full spectrum of Mutu’s work. Along with the collages that made her internationally well known, the artist’s video works, sculptures, and installations will also be on view. In Sydney, for instance, viewers can experience Exhuming Gluttony: A Lover’s Requiem (2006)—a veritably claustrophobic space whose dark walls are shot through with bullets and decorated with animal furs. More than a hundred bottles  hang over of a wooden banquet table with a red wine dripping out of them. Abundance and waste, violence and exploitation are in the air. Mutu “dirties” the rational white cube of the exhibition space and leads the viewer into a dim, nightmarish arrangement that recalls Africa’s bloody colonial history.

Mutu also questions the white cube in the Nasher Museum: a monumental wall drawing, sculptural works, collages, and films come together here to create a gesamtkunstwerk, as in her project for Deutsche Bank. In A Fantastic Journey, the artist’s sketchbooks, which provide direct insight into the process that gives rise to her works, will be shown publicly for the first time. One of the exhibition’s highlights is Mutu’s first animated video, made in collaboration with the hip-hop singer and producer Santigold.

Mutu resists the one-dimensional notion that she’s an “African” artist whose work draws from the culture of her home country. Like many artists living in the Diaspora, she combines elements of her native culture with Western imagery. This fraught relationship has become a central theme of her work. Mutu’s art resembles a surreal cosmos populated by an entire armada of hybrid creatures—crosses between human, animal, and plant, monster and machine. Beauty and terror are inseparably intertwined in her work.

Following the premiere in the Nasher Museum, A Fantastic Journey will travel to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, and the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University.

Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey
3/21 – 7/21/2013
Nasher Museum of Art
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA

Wangechi Mutu
5/23 – 8/11/2013
Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Sydney

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