5/16/2006

Wangechi Mutu

52 comments:

Painter said...

Wangachi Mutu @
Sikkema Jenkins and co.
530 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011

artgirl said...

Too fantastical for me. I do like the flowers, but in an illustration sort of way.

no-where-man said...

over it.

SurvivorNYC said...

How can you be over it this is her first solo show in NYC?

averywhitelabels said...

formally it aint anything fred tomaselli or chris ofili hasnt done, just plug in africa/female/porn.

no-where-man said...

& + cirque de soleil

zipthwung said...

You might also like Laura Owens....
Whitney Biennial 2004.

Reminds me of the Fiend Folio Anyone with me on that?

But Laura Owens is dopey (conceptual/Chelsea), where this is decorative and a little disturbing. Are those MUTANT pinworms coming out of its ass? I had those when I was little. They itch like a motherfucker. Moral of that story is: dont play with other kids.

flesheater99 said...

My family had a number of cats growing up. One cat in particular had a fondness for the fake green easter grass (Holla Gentiles!) One easter w/o our knowledge she got to eating a bunch of it. We found out b/c there was a piece of it hanging out of her asshole. No one wanted the job of pulling it out so Thumper went 'round for days with a piece of green easter grass hanging out of her ass.

The hunched character (leftish)reminds me of this very special holiday. (Never mind that the other chick is eating it.)

burrito brother said...

doesn't this look a little too much like those LavaLife ads on the train? On acid?

PinkandlacePony said...

I think these ladies might have a hard time finding a date.

chicomacho said...

i hate art

flesheater99 said...

those LavaLife ads are dope--> Alex Katz meets 'Waking Life' (@ a singles bar then maybe they'll catch a movie or something...)

flesheater99 said...

p.s chimacho, it only gets worse.

serena said...

Michael Parkes on a bad trip, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

And I LOVE those Lavalife ads. Very pedestrian of me, I know. ;-)

Vlahos Boyiajees said...

I love this artist. Finally someone found a way to create surreal figures in a new and fresh way. This piece is gorgeous really. I love the way she used a kaleidoscopic palette but muted it just enough to make it seem organic.
There's isn't a single thing I would change about this work. Perfect. Shows you don't have to be ironic or dark to make a great painting. You can hang this next to a Dali and it would hold it's own. Ha, there I said it, bring on the iDaliiests. I'm ready for ya....

beadelog said...

Way to close to that crappy venice carnival clown mask genre that makes me shiver to the core. Even the asshair eating can't save this one.

beadelog said...

Sorry, too close.

bada said...

The problem with western viewers of non-western art is that parallel or allusions that they see aren't necessarily there, or in the case of her art, misappropriated... if there is similarity to illustration we have to realize that illustration has much roots to non-western "traditional" art, or to be fair, shares the supposed "lacking" of "proper" depth... the use of lines, and "basic" (organic) forms, etc... so, to write a work like this off as illustrative or such, or like a carnival costume (hello, who celebrates the tradition of carnival?) and not realize of the art piece's heritage as being the original to the inspiration of illustrative or such, would be folly...

that said, she is using the idiom of her african lineage, which interestingly enough hasn't all been that interested in painting or drawing (and if so, usually "abstract")...instead african art, on the most part, focuses on sculptural art, the volumous real (what the cubists drew from)...and specifically in her case, kenyan...art from her region, if I recall correctly, focused literally on the body, with body art being an intrinsic part of their cultural practices as say Southeast Asians (henna, for example)...

...Her concerns of the body are fresh. Although she does not work with real bodies, she gathers within her images a multitude of dimensions of bodies...in the past, her primary use of "found Images" discordant at best, populate, not just the skin, but the organs, and the underlying structure of the body itself, she creates a visual richness, with the tension between natural body, natural self, and perhaps the cancerous like intrusions of the globalized, media-driven, (post)modern image of the human body (specifically female, of course)...

Her new work is a little different. Here she focuses not just on the body, but the mythologies surrounding the body, more "fantastically" to quote above... I'm not so sure if I necessarily agree with this choice, but the result, from the standpoint of the artist, must be to imbue a sort of accessibility to the viewer (as opposed to the outright grotesque, alienating, assault by her older works)through narrative... the irony is there, but subtly in that while these "fantastically" derived narratives evoke a sort of warmth, akin to any reference to any mythology, in all its quirky absuridities, she is in fact referencing the brutal reality of politically/socially torn Africa. Once again, the common reception would be that she is addressing bodily conflict, and war nonspecifically, but I think she is being quite specific to the conflicts she is addressing, this one is a good example of that.

To say she is similar to Chris Ofili, to put it politely, would be a misinformed conclusion. They are using a similar idiom, mainly from their african lineage, but are taking very different approaches, ofili being more subversive and more critical of symbols within society-at-large, while wangechi is far more direct, and concerns herself with identity crisis. The notion of "africa/porn/female" may also be an obvious similarity also, but it is important to note that the potency of issues of sex and body and gender roles (gaze, etc.) are particularly great in Africa, what with epidemic of HIV for example, that "africa/porn/female" stands as quite a necessary subject by any artist of the region... the very core of this issue, she addresses with wreckless abandon of the abject...the seemingly vulgar, disease ridden, distorted relationships of these figures certainly present the abject in true form.

Certainly her works aren't meant to be pretty.

so... the relavance if her work is there, you just have to get off your stuck-up western point-of-view for a second and really look...

fuckers.

ham paw said...

I love this artist! These paintings make me happy. they are fantastical and strange and wonderful. They are so odd.

averywhitelabels said...

bada: nevertheless it looks just like, and formally IS just like, fred tomaselli's last few years of work, in all the various forms and uses of body and space that you so pretentiously and bombastically windbagged on about. and he's swiss.

Vlahos Boyiajees said...

Bravo bada. Someone put a little thought to their comment. That 'carnival' comment is just silly and really isn't an informed response if you have seen her whole body of work.

Here is a note from the Saatchi gallery on a piece from last year.
Wangechi Mutu
Cancer of the Uterus
2005, Glitter, fur, collage on found extremely fragile medical illustration paper
46 x 31cm

http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/imgs/artists/mutu/wangechi-mutu-cancer-uterus.jpg

"Wangechi Mutu’s collages seem both ancient and futuristic; her figures aspire as a super-race, by-products of a troubled and imposed evolution. In Cancer of the Uterus, her figure is an ominous goddess; pasted over a pathology diagram, her portrait is diseased at the core. Mutu uses materials which make reference to African identity and political strife: her dazzling black glitter is an abyss of western desire, which allude to the illegal diamond trade and its consequences of oppression and war. From corruption and violence, Mutu creates a glamorous beauty; her figures empowered by their survivalist adjustment to atrocity, made immune and ‘improved’ by horror and being victims."

bada said...

nevertheless it looks just like, and formally IS just like, fred tomaselli's last few years of work, in all the various forms and uses of body and space that you so pretentiously and bombastically windbagged on about. and he's swiss.

superficially, he's only mildly similar... ok, not all that similar. should I repeat? ok, in another way, get your fucking head out of your fucking western-point-of-view-ass...

...hey, I'm allowed to be bombastically windbagged about something... especially if so many here have to love that goddamn condo so goddamn much for no legitmate goddamn reason...

thank you...vlahos...

where are the multiculturalists and the feminists? yes, I think this blog is severly lacking in those areas...and I'm getting tired of these snooty formally educated, patriarchial, anglo-european, art critics that say too much stupid ignorant shit just to hear themselves talk about how wonderful their insights are, (and the women that think they're like them)...that's right, I'm pissed.

wangechi's art is great, whether you get it or not.

fuckers.

bada said...

oh, disclaimer: some of you who post I do think are wonderful, and I enjoy your comments thoroughly...whether or not you agree with my thoughts, etc... so I'm not talking about everybody...just so I'm clear...

Professor Mouth said...

Bada,
I'm not really super-invested in praising Mutu or tearing her down. But I must say, your rant is really unconvincing as argument. You claim that people admire George Condo for no good reason, and then proceed to categorize every skeptic of Mutu's work as hopelessly 'western', 'patriarchal' and implicitly anti-feminist. Yet, you don't say one single thing to articulate these sweeping generalizations. This is a nice way to bully your opponents(Bill O'Reilly would approve of the method, if not the content, of your screed), but a very poor way to persuade and outfox those who disagree with you. Where are your 'good reasons', sir or madam?
Sorry if I sound too 'Western'.

And Vlahos, are you actually quoting a gallery press release as an argument for an artist's work? This says nothing about Wangechi's work, but it sure says a lot of unfortunate things about you. Talk about 'patriarchal and western'. And yet Bada wholeheartedly approves of your comment. Huh.

bada said...

oh please, i'm personally not interested in getting someone to like her work or not, yes, yes, more interested in opening a bigger perspective for clearer reception of her work. i put a lot of writing merely to draw attention to where one can see more into the work... and address the western perspective as what it is, a predominant ideology that affects, among many things, the way we look at art... with this work, I feel that the most can be gathered when the western view is gone beyond at least somewhat... so there's more than carnival costumes, illustrative like lavalife ads, or like that swiss artist whose concerns are fairly different... and certainly there is...

I'm not interested in trying to tell anybody what to think about the work, either. why? a.)because I'd rather people think on their own (in light of a full-bodied information) and b.)because I admit I'm not great at it (persuasion. art is a personal thing for me, afterall), which is why i wish there were more multicultural theorists (multiculti folk) and feminists to back me up. also, i simply was thanking vlahos for backing me up, etc... I think vlahos posted the information, not to support why one should like her, but likewise, to add more insight into the work...nothing wrong with that.

now, badmouth, you've criticized my "rant", which is fair, sure, never claimed to be the best writing things like this, but can you now add to the dialogue of this image? My bet is that if you try you will end up sounding western in which you may miss the point of the work. sure, that's fine too...however it proves my point, there are too many of you, and how does that add to a more dynamic dialogue about any of the art presented here? not very. certainly there should be a point to this blog...

...now I fully understand that if I am not willing to invest time into a work presented here, I just won't post. Better let others with more meaning to invest show more insight into the work, then my then shallow engagement if I were to comment at all... perhaps my interest is different than others here, I'm interested in seeing what a work has to say, and read other's comments about it, even if I don't like it. if i tear apart a work, i want to do it in order to understand it more fully with others counter commenting... I'm NOT interested in simply saying oh, this is bad, it's just not helpful for anyone, i suppose...

and for the record, I said what i thought about condo on his image thread, no one has responded, and I'm always open for more reason to "look" more into work or artist, even condo, I just don't happen to have much reason to, given all that's been said about his work thus far...which means little, since he seems to have enough ass-kissers...or appreciators, whatever the case may really be... not like mutu doesn't have a huge following also.

no-where-man said...

ok has anyone been to cirque de soleil? ok maybe the s and m one with the lazy suzan of sex.. i have been to them all - love me some vegas, it hits the same fantastically vibe. - or maybe i see it to much over at the top banner on the saatchi site...

over it

oilybrushes said...

bravo bada, exactly what i was thinking.
i left the site yesterday after the slew of comments pertaining to parasites.

averywhitelabels said...

uh please. how unbelievably patronizing to assume that because someone represents images of women, african women, that somehow they are automatically "addressing" something in a critical way about women, aids, gender, etc. And how unbelievably white-boy of you to assume that i am either western or a male.
and how stupid to insist that this work is "fresh" just because it is a accumulation of imagery from porn and media.

Vlahos Boyiajees said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Vlahos Boyiajees said...

Vlahos Boyiajees said...
Professor said..."And Vlahos, are you actually quoting a gallery press release as an argument for an artist's work? This says nothing about Wangechi's work, but it sure says a lot of unfortunate things about you. Talk about 'patriarchal and western'. "

'Professor," you don't start a sentence with And. I quoted a press release because that person actually described her work with more detail. Unlike some of the momo comments that appear in here about her work being about 'Cirque De Solei' and other people saying they are 'over it.' Yeah, I know, it's that too-jaded-to-think New Yorker thing. I'm over THAT. I'm also a New Yorker. I am a mix of Western and Eastern, but since I live in the West, I do tend to think more Western. DUH! Being 'Western' is not a bad thing as 'Professor' seems to suggest. I also don't fetishize Eastern culture. Nor am I 'patriarchal.' What a preposterous comment to make. It's so easy to call people names when you are not face-to-face with them isn't it?
So take it easy 'Professor.' Maybe you need to get some fresh air. This is not a gladiator arena. Nor is it a battle of the intellects. Sometimes it can seem like the battle of the idiots. It is a forum to talk about painting. Let's stop saying what is 'unfortunate' about others and criticizing them personally because you really don't know who is in here do you? It's not personal. Let's talk about the work.

bada said...

avery, *sigh*... let me hopefully elucidate...unlike in the "west", notions of females are still designated almost soley as "fuck receptacles", "bearers of children", and not allowed to speak, or aspire to greater asperations, and so on... it's the 21st century, and still there are societys that still think in these ways about woman, and particularly so in much of Africa, but also in a surprisingly large parts of the world: South Asia, Near East should be included as well.

Now, if i were NOT to assume your patriarchial western view, I would think you would understand the currency that the issue takes on right this very moment... in other words, views of woman as sex object is a VERY serious issue... sex workers, sex trade, porn, HIV, STDS...all are paying a toll on humanity right this minute...so once again, get your fucking head out of your fucking western-point-of-view-ass...

...so I'll just go on for bit then, the "fresh" way that I feel that she is tackling this issue is in the way that I spoke of earlier (which you would have read if you weren't so lazy to read the WHOLE post of mine) is a reflection of body as art in her culture (or cultures of her region, not for sure.)... the role of flesh of her work is like the role of flesh of her people, they aren't just the superfical externals like in western culture, determined by whimsy of appearances and fashion, that which covers our true selves... in her culture, the flesh represents who we are as people, the imperfections, the idiosyncracies, the ways we are treated, the sancitity with which we use our bodies, the brutality that is a result of our environment on the organic...and she goes a step further, with a western twist the skin now takes on the dimension of global society, the discordant views of subject/object/real, the way our body becomes a product of global society as we make/dress it up accordingly (however her recent work is less focused on this last aspect), but most specifically the (female) body made to waste by the distorted views as sexual object... with her, she is in that sense saying all what the body represents all in one body. She's addressing time and space and all happening on the very flesh of her subjects, at a seemingly singular moment...not unlike jenny sayville, whose work I also admire...

In person her work is much more potent, as to the immensity, of course, but also because you can then see and feel the intense textures of the flesh of her subjects, the intensity and solidity and the depth of her introspection are all within the flesh...not abstractly, but literally.

With this work, I feel that, like kara walker, she is investigating the role of the (black)female body/role in society in terms of mythologies (that may be specific to her region). Can't speak more on that for the moment... already wrote too much as is...

------

oh one more thing,

circ, yes I've seen a number of circ, even some BEFORE these churned out Vegas editions...and guess where they draw inspiration from? you guessed it, various "world cultures" and their mythologies... and guess what else these shows want to do? sell...so of course sex is going to be a topic of the shows... that said, I think I like them...

but critiquing a piece against a (commercial) work that draws inspiration from the piece's most original authentic roots? a bit flimsy.

It's like looking at a traditional African mask and saying, that's lame, it looks like a picasso.

So your over it, and you haven't really begun to look at it... but that's fine, I can't look at every painting that closely, either. and you sound like a busy person. :) But, should you decide to spend the time, there's more there, my original point...

beadelog said...

This stuff isn't tribal and has nothing to do with gender or body image. It just looks bad.

bada said...

that's a very insightful comment, there, beadelog...lazy, ignorant bastard... you wish she were just talking about aesthetics...

burrito brother said...

Oh please. Her work has more to do with FASHION and STYLE than any other artist on this page!

bada said...

...only so far that these societal views (global) persist in our very own flesh, particularly if you are a woman...so yes, it does have to do with fashion and style, but very critically... and let's not forget where these "ideals" of fashion and style come from...none other than the west....just like your comments, "tribal", "looks bad"...

adlig said...

i love her work. nuff said

beadelog said...

Yeah bada, I suppose I don't work as hard as I should or study world issues as much as some but you are correct in saying my comment is insightful.

bada said...

beade, LOL. yes, it was insightful...:)

didn't realize it was burrito who was talking about fashion style, sorry...all us b-named, gets confusing...

adlig, yes, yes, nuff said...I like that.

closeuup said...

and let's not forget where these "ideals" of fashion and style come from...none other than the west....

Are you kidding? you know nothing about the history of fashion my friend. Africa has had a huge influence on fashion since forever.

Lets put it this way. Fashion--like many things--is a double edged sword. A lot of it is HIGHLY CREATIVE. Then a lot of it is about conformity. East west north or south.

bada said...

...uh, no. fashion, that is clothes as personal expression, was started in europe, somewhere in the 1600's which predates any permanant interest in Africa (colonies) which only started around the late 1700's if I'm not mistaken, and of course, it would take some time before the europeans would bother to significantly assimilate any sort of cultural influence from any of their colonies after colonization began...

and of course, it's reflective to the fact that fashion is based in europe even now, and guides the future of the industy...

and I should note that fashion as personal expression was not the main purpose of clothes in African cultures or other non-western clothes (prior to western infiltration, and prior to the 1700's certainly), in that clothes were determined for religious or traditional concerns, which wasn't about individuality, to say the least...

it should be noted that if there was a sense of fashion in non-west cultures, it would be, at most, designated or allowed in only the highest social classes, which reflected very little of much of their royal subjects, and still these privelaged were in compliance to religious/traditional concerns of society at large...

fashion as (frivilous) personal expression means there is value of individuality, individuality was not a major concern of much of the non-west, even to this day...

bada said...

fashion, that is clothes as personal expression, was started in europe, somewhere in the 1600's which predates any permanant interest in Africa (colonies) which only started around the late 1700's if I'm not mistaken

oops, I meant in 16th century fashion began and late 17th century african colonies began...meaning, 1500's and 1600's respectively. just to be clear...

closeuup said...

very narrow def. of fashion.

frivilous personal expression?

you are a puritan thru and thru

zipthwung said...

Uhm.

Yeah.

Great comments.

Tapeworms? I mean, the association is not too far out here.

Guinea worms?

Parasites in general?

"fashion, that is clothes as personal expression, was started in europe, somewhere in the 1600's "

Complete bullshit.

Fashion - style as an expression of the individual, is not purely western nor modern.

What book did you get that idea out of?

bada said...

gee, are you two going to just disagree with me and not provide possible other ideas were fashion comes from? hmmmmm... unsubstantiated claims are a bit boring to respond to...

certainly, close, if I'm a puritan, then you must be a sellout...

The fashion I'm talking about, that I believe mutu is talking about is fashion as the (business) instutition, one that is greatly affecting the view of being a woman in society in this day and age... this institution, driven by capitalist concerns, is the same one that pervades media today... ideals of this institution was formed by the west.

obviously, the majority of us are not wearing kimonos or tunics around town.

the idea that every nation, culture in this world has equal say and/or influence in global society...is not only misinformed, but "complete bullshit"...

kelli said...

Jan Huizinga - The Waning of the Late Middle Ages. Fashion was already a pretty big deal at that point for people on various class levels. Brown was the color of mourning. Do you guys really think about fashion in relation to this? I'm thinking of revival of a certain kind of decoration or P&D.

closeuup said...

not sure I see a critique of the "evil" fashion industry in this work.

She could be pointing out the confluences of body adornment past and present. Modern tribes?

Nobody's wearing kimonos? You obviously missed Spring 06. Have you ever cracked a Vogue? Dude?

bada said...

hey, don't blame me for directly bringing up fashion... i was just addressing someone else's comment...

of course I missed spring 06. hello? I'm not a sellout. but I certainly don't see people wearing kimonos on the streets (here in the US, that is)...

She could be pointing out the confluences of body adornment past and present.

I addressed this idea, obviously you were also too lazy to read my whole posts...ugh.

once again, her work deals with fashion (looky, I have to quote myself, from above.)"...only so far that these societal views (global) persist in our very own flesh, particularly if you are a woman..."

JasperJanx said...

Bada, you are soiling this thread. No one wants to read your tiresome long posts. It looks like you picked the most incoherent sentence to quote (yourself). (global).

closeuup said...

If you dont see people wearing kimonos, or versions of kimonos, you arent looking. How bout that artist in the Whitney Bi who wore the kimono to the opening?

Fashion is more deeply felt, creative, vital, and meaningful than you give it credit for. Since way before the 16th cent. til today. For Africans as well as westerners. I don't use fashion as a perjorative and you did. That's all I'm pointing out.

burrito brother said...

I think what I meant by FASHION was that her work seems really MANNERED. Her formal moves all seem really labored and of the moment, positioning styles and imagery to create meaning. Images of luxury that also symbolically relate to images of the uncultured native. Red wine = blood, fur coat = animal carcass. Like Brozino it's so imbued with symbolism that it seems "laid out" more than "found out". Plus the desire to touch upon many well-worn styles of art, collage (cut up porn), installation (scatter), painting (spills), whatever to create these surreal stories, picking and choosing formally what is out there... not saying it's bad or good just saying it's kind of MANNERED. Readable styles.

bada said...

hey, yeah, i see your point, close. personally, i don't have problems with fashion, i guess i was just talking from how fashion relates to those standards that can be oppressive on how we are suppose to look (and kinda got caught up, eek.)... and this relates to mutu, because I think she's dealing with those oppressive standards on women.

I do agree, fashion can be "felt, creative, vital, and meaningful"...I guess I was just talking historically just to shed light on where the oppressive standards may have come from (ie looking pretty, proper social ettiquette, etc....of old europe, where fashion has departed some ways from today, no doubt...)

and burrito, thanks for further explaining your earlier comment...interesting... good points, i think. Actually, that's probably what I don't like about her work, myself.

closeuup said...

article about her in June VOGUE