Wangechi Mutu: Earth Goddess Vibes in Full Effect
Wangechi Mutu's recent exhibition Ndoro Na Miti at Gladstone Gallery featured the artist's usual mix of breathtaking fantastical goddesses. Mutu centers on black femininity through an intersectional scope of fantasy, alchemy, globalization, race, sexuality and fashion. Mutu, a native of Nairobi and Brooklyn-based, works with sculpture, collage and video, creating hybridized female figures who - unapologetically - rule, consume, explore, and radiate beauty.
In Ndoro Na Miti, which derives from Kikuyu ( a branch of the Bantu language) meaning mud and trees, Mutu masterfully invokes nature throughout the Chelsea gallery's posh and spacious setting. Delving deep into her sculptural practice, the majority of the works are sourced from earth materials - mud, clay, tree bark, palm leaves - and executed in rich tones of sienna, mahogany, terra cotta, sepia, and chestnut brown. A standout work, a luscious, smooth sculpture of black marble, representing a mermaid, is impossible to forget. Women and water are fluid, historical ideas rooted in African and Caribbean mythology, so visually it's a perfect pairing. More of these nature goddesses are seen throughout the exhibit, another sculpture depicts a woman (a crown of palm leaves sit atop her head) kneeling while extending her hand, the pose insinuates notions of submission, power and fertility.
Mutu, a Yale MFA graduate, has been the subject of solo shows at the Victoria Miro Gallery (UK representation), Nasher Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, and the 2015 Venice Biennale. The Kenyan artist is also the driving force behind Africa's Out (as its Chair and President), an organization advocating and empowering the LGBTQ community in Africa today.
Ndoro Na Miti was on view from January 27 to March 25, 2017 at Gladstone Gallery in New York.