From September 19 to December 7, the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University presents Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey, an exhibition organized by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
The exhibition is the first US survey for Wangechi Mutu, a contemporary African artist and sculptor who has achieved great global acclaim for her works in a wide range of artistic media.
Born in Nairobi, Kenya and living in New York since the early 1990s, Mutu 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.
Just as Mutu applies a collaged approach to her physical material, she uses montage as a tactic to address issues of racial stereotyping, femininity and sexuality, and environmental degradation. To unpack the interwoven themes in her work, the Block has planned a robust schedule of fall programming. Scroll down to see a list of free events complementing Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey.
Mutu is best known for large-scale collages depicting powerful hybrid female figures in otherworldly landscapes. Many of her most iconic pieces are included in A Fantastic Journey, which features more than 50 works from the mid-1990s to the present. The exhibition 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.
The artist and members of her studio will transform the Block into an environmental installation that draws viewers directly into Mutu’s vision, including a monumental wall drawing made of materials such as Kenyan soil.
Free fall events complementing Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey
The Block offers a unique context for Wangechi Mutu’s work, as Northwestern curricula frequently explore issues of racial stereotyping, femininity and sexuality, and environmental destruction. To highlight these connections and offer a multi-faceted experience of the exhibition, the Block has planned the following events:
Opening day celebration
Saturday, September 27, 2–5pm
Artist talk at 2:30pm next door at Louis Theater
Mutu will provide an overview of her work and participate in a conversation with Northwestern’s Huey Copeland, associate professor of art history.
Block Cinema: Space Is the Place
Thursday, October 16, 7pm
(John Coney, b. 1974, United States, 35mm, 85 minutes)
Afrofuturistic extravaganza, directed by Coney, stars the inimitable jazz musician and far-out futurist Sun Ra, who travels through space and time to save the black race while pursued by the FBI.
Block Cinema: Fantastic Planet
Thursday, October 30, 7pm
(Renee Laloux, b. 1973, France and Czechoslovakia, 35mm, 72 minutes)
Rene Laloux’s animated cult classic Fantastic Planet—which inspired artist Mutu’s video The End of eating Everything—shows a terrifying future in which human-like beings are kept as pets or exterminated by giant blue creatures. Please note: Due to its violent and sexual content this film may be unsuitable for younger audiences.
Panel discussion: “Voyaging the Fantastic: Afrosurrealism and Afrofuturism in Wangechi Mutu and Contemporary Black Art”
Saturday, November 1, 2pm
Moderated by Northwestern faculty member Alexander Weheliye, this roundtable will bring together preeminent Chicago-based black artists D. Denenge Akpem, Krista Franklin and Ayanah Moor for a conversation that takes Mutu’s work as a springboard for consideration of the place of Afrosurrealism and Afrofuturism in contemporary black art.
Panel discussion: “Deploying and Shattering Stereotypes”
Wednesday, November 12, 6:30pm
Joy Bivins, curator, Chicago History Museum and organizer of the recent exhibition, Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair; Maud Lavin, faculty member and cultural historian, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; and Kathleen Bickford Berzock, the Block’s associate director of curatorial affairs and an expert on African art, will explore Mutu’s work as a starting point for considering and challenging stereotypes around women and the body, blackness and what it is to be African.
Interdisciplinary gallery talk
Wednesday, November 19, 5:30pm
Join Melika Bass, Northwestern faculty member, department of radio/television/film; Antawan Byrd, Northwestern Ph.D. candidate in art history; and Sakhile Matlhare, Northwestern Ph.D. in sociology, as they bring their diverse perspectives to an in-gallery conversation about the exhibition Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey.
About The Block Museum
The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art is the fine arts museum of Northwestern University and Chicago’s North Shore. It serves the academic and cultural needs of the University and community with thought-provoking exhibitions, a rich and diverse permanent collection, and dynamic educational and cultural programming.
Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art
40 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208