The work of the Kenya-born Wangechi Mutu, who trained as a sculptor and anthropologist, explores the contradictions of female and cultural identity and references colonial history, contemporary African politics, and the international fashion industry. Drawing from the aesthetics of traditional crafts, science fiction, and funkadelia, Mutu creates work that documents the contemporary myth making of endangered cultural heritage. Piecing together magazine imagery with painted surfaces and found materials, her elaborate collages mimic amputation, transplant operations, and bionic prosthetics. Her figures become satirical mutilations with grotesquely marred forms that have experienced perverse modification, echoing the atrocities of war or the “improvements” of plastic surgery.
Barbara Gladstone Gallery has hosted four solo exhibitions of Mutu’s work since 2010. The almost year-long presentation of A Promise to Communicate by the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston will end on December 31. Among her many honors, Mutu won a United States Artist Grant in 2014 and a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant in 2008, and was the Deutsche Guggenheim Artist of the Year in 2010.