Wangechi Mutu, a Kenyan-born artist based in New York, makes luscious yet unsettling pictures of female figures. Her painted and collaged works on Mylar function as potent social critique while simultaneously exploring more poetic strains of mythology and allegory as well as the sensuousness of form, color, and pattern. Particularly interested in myths about gender and ethnicity that have long circulated in Africa and the West, Mutu has adopted the medium of collage – which by its nature evokes rupture and collision – to depict the monstrous, the exotic, and the feminine.
Piecing together magazine imagery with painted surfaces and found materials, Mutu’s collages mimic amputation, transplant operations and bionic prosthetics. Her figures become parody mutilations, their bodies grotesquely marred through modifications that echo atrocities of war or self-inflicted ‘improvements’ of plastic surgery. Mutu examines how ideology is implicitly tied to corporeal form. She explores how European physical preferences have been inflicted on and adapted by Africans, resulting in both social hierarchy and genocide.