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Full-scale figurative collages, gigantic felted trees and an immersive environment will transform the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art this fall when it presents “Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey.”
Organized by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, the exhibition is the first U.S. survey for Wangechi Mutu, a contemporary African artist and sculptor who has achieved global acclaim for her works in a diverse range of artistic media.
The comprehensive exhibition featuring her thought-provoking and rich imagery opens Sept. 19 and runs through Dec. 7 at Northwestern University’s Block Museum, its sole Midwest region venue.
Ms. Mutu is best known for large-scale collages depicting powerful hybrid female figures in lush, otherworldly landscapes. Many of her most iconic works are included in “A Fantastic Journey,” which features more than 50 works from the mid-1990s to the present.
The New York Times describes the exhibit as “magnetic…visually ravishing” art that is “at what has to be some kind of peak moment.”
The exhibit includes rarely seen early works, new creations, sketches and the artist’s first-ever animated video, titled “The End of Eating Everything,” featuring singer/songwriter Santigold as a mysterious part human, part cyborg protagonist whose monstrous appetite evokes critical societal issues involving human consumption.
The artist and members of her studio will transform the Block into an environmental installation that draws viewers directly into Ms. Mutu’s vision, including a monumental wall drawing made of materials such as soil from Kenya, the country where she was born.
“Wangechi Mutu’s work marks a new direction for our museum,” says Block Director Lisa Corrin. “We will exhibit art across time and cultures and focus on innovative approaches to the presentation of art, such as Mutu’s transformation of our main gallery from a white box into a mysterious forest.”
Ms. Mutu was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and has lived in New York since the early 1990s. Her work explores issues of gender, race, war, globalization, colonialism and the eroticization of the black female body.
She creates mysterious composite figures pieced together with human, animal, machine and monster parts. She often combines found materials and magazine cutouts with sculpted and painted imagery, drawing from sources as diverse as international politics, African ethnography, fashion, eroticism and science fiction to produce an Afrofuturist vision.
“Wangechi Mutu’s work explores the complexity of African identity in the United States, where it is often oversimplified,” said Kathleen Bickford Berzock, associate director of curatorial affairs at the Block Museum.
The Block Museum is located at 40 Arts Circle Drive in Evanston.
Admission to the opening celebration and some events complementing “Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey” are free. More information is available at http://www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu or by calling 847-491-4000.