Wangechi Mutu (b. 1972, Nairobi, Kenya; lives in New York and Nairobi) makes collages, paintings, sculpture, and video that recontextualize the relationships between the body and nature. She is best known for collages of composite forms drawn from folklore, pop culture, and art history. In her recent sculptural work, Mutu uses the physical landscape of Nairobi as inspiration and the bright red dirt and brush from her garden as the medium for her three-dimensional forms. Both the material and hybrid nature of her works recall a creation myth in which humans are formed from the earth by emerging from plants and evolving from animals, appearing as liminal forms caught in the midst of transformation. She often conflates the micro and macro, the scientific and spiritual, and the historical and mythical, exhibiting sculptural viruses magnified to human scale and anthills that resemble monumental pyramids alongside giant prayer beads, centaurs, and mermaids. Throughout her work, Mutu invokes the psychic and social struggle for control over bodies through capitalism, the fetish, and disease.
Mutu received her BFA from Cooper Union for the Advancement of the Arts and Science, New York in 1996 and MFA in sculpture from Yale University School of Art, New Haven, CT in 2000. Solo exhibitions of her work have been organized at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX (2016); JoburgArtFair, Johannesburg, South Africa (2016); SITE Santa Fe, NM (2016); the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design, Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland, OR (2016); the Brooklyn Museum (2014); Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney (2013); Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, Durham, NC (2013); Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Canada (2012); Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany (2012); Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada (2010); Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA (2009); Miami Art Museum, FL (2005); and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA (2005). Select group exhibitions and biennials featuring her work include Walking Dream, Ruby City, San Antonio, TX (forthcoming); Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Museum of the African Diaspora; Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, SC; Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Kalamazoo, MI (forthcoming); Making & Unmaking, Camden Arts Centre, London (2016); Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2016); Surrealist: The Conjured Life, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2015); Picasso & Contemporary Art, Le Grand Palais, Paris (2015); The Shadows Took Shape, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2013); Exquisite Corpses: Drawing and Disfiguration, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013); and The Luminous Interval, Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain (2011). Mutu participated in the Whitney Biennial 2019, the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015 and the 11th Dak’Art Biennale, Dakar, Senegal in 2014. Mutu’s work is featured in numerous international public and private collections, including Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; The Hague, Netherlands; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Saatchi Gallery, London; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and San Francisco Museum of Contemporary Art, CA.
Mutu has received numerous awards and grants, including the United States Artist Grant (2014); the Asher B. Durand Artist of the Year Award, Brooklyn Museum (2013); and Deutsche Guggenheim Artist of the Year Award (2010).
Her work is in numerous public and private collections including the Altoids Collection, New York, NY; Blanton Museum, Austin, TX; Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, NH; Judith Rothschild Foundation, New York, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY; Pérez Art Museum, Miami, FL; Saatchi Gallery, London, United Kingdom; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.