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Lehmann Maupin's first exhibition with Wangechi Mutu opens in Hong Kong
Wangechi Mutu, god hands, 2017. Paper pulp, soil, wood glue, and wood 2 parts, 26 x 20 x 9 inches (left) 66 x 50.8 x 22.9 cm 27 x 22 x 12 inches (right) 68.6 x 55.9 x 30.5 cm 24 x 54.5 x 36 inches (pedestal) 61 x 138.4 x 91.4 cm. Courtesy the artist, Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong, and Gladstone Gallery, New York.

HONG KONG.- Lehmann Maupin announces the gallery’s first exhibition with Wangechi Mutu in Hong Kong. The Kenya-born artist, based in New York and Nairobi, debuts a new body of work comprised of sculptures and paintings representing the artist’s use of materials from familiar surroundings that have informed her continued engagement with the natural world.

Mutu is internationally known for her mixed media collages that deal with issues of identity, and in recent years her oeuvre has expanded with a focus on sculpture, performance, and animation. These works are often brought together in the form of cohesive installations, as was exemplified in her work shown at the 56th Venice Biennale, in 2015. Mutu’s practice was recognized early for its unique, globally influenced hybrid aesthetic that merged biology, pop culture, science fiction, religion, and philosophy, where Mutu explored the relationship between identity, the body, and nature.

In her most recent work, Mutu continues to explore the relationship between humans and the natural environment through new materials. The work is made from organic matter, including rocks and minerals, iron rich soil, roots, and branches sourced from different parts of East Africa. The humanoid objects and spherical virus-like sculptures are representative of a range of biological phenomena that represent living matter, replete with the potential for regeneration or destruction.

For the artist, the liminal space of transformation is what offers the greatest metaphorical potential, as captured in her new abstract paintings that depict moments of mutation and growth frozen in time. Mutu’s new work identifies a common thread found in multiple creation mythologies, in which humans are formed from the earth and sea. Her transformation of raw natural elements to hand hewn forms, thus becomes analogous of human evolution from biological to societal construct that shape our understanding of nature and one another.

Wangechi Mutu (b. 1972, Nairobi, Kenya; lives in New York and Nairobi) makes collages, paintings, sculpture, and video that recontextualize the relationships between the body and nature. She is best known for collages of composite forms drawn from folklore, pop culture, and art history. In her most recent body of work, Mutu uses the physical landscape of Nairobi as inspiration and the bright red dirt and brush from her garden as the medium for her three-dimensional forms. Both the material and hybrid nature of her works recall a creation myth in which humans are formed from the earth by emerging from plants and evolving from animals, appearing as liminal forms that are caught in the midst of transformation. She often conflates the micro and macro, the scientific and spiritual, and the historical and mythical, exhibiting sculptural viruses magnified to human scale alongside giant prayer beads, human dream catchers, centaurs, and mermaids. For her exhibition at Lehmann Maupin in Hong Kong, Mutu further explores the push and pull between humans and nature through her interest in materiality. Her sculptural forms and paintings are reflective of the natural environment—birds nests conceived as intricate sculptures, ant hills that resemble monumental pyramids, or viruses that under a microscope reveal complex illustrations. Each invokes the psychic and social struggle for control over bodies through capitalism, the fetish, and disease.

Mutu received her BFA from Cooper Union for the Advancement of the Arts and Science, New York in 1996 and MFA in Sculpture from Yale University School of Art, New Haven, CT in 2000. Solo exhibitions of her work have been organized at Site, Santa Fe, NM (2016); the Schnitzer Center for Art and Design, Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland, OR (2016); The Brooklyn Museum (2014); Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney (2013); Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, Durham, NC (2013); Musée D’Art Contemporain de Montréal, Canada (2012); Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany (2012); Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada (2010); Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA (2009); Miami Art Museum, FL (2005); and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA (2005). Select group exhibitions and biennials featuring her work include Making & Unmaking, Camden Arts Centre, London (2016); Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection, Whitney Museum of Modern Art, New York (2016); Surrealist: The Conjured Life, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2015); Picasso & Contemporary Art, Le Grand Palais, Paris (2015); Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, traveled to Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, GA, and the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC (2014); The Shadows Took Shape, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2013); Exquisite Corpses: Drawing and Disfiguration, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013); The Luminous Interval, Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain (2011); The Spectacle of the Everyday, and Black Womanhood, San Diego Museum of Art, CA (2009). Mutu participated in the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015 and the 11th Dak’Art Biennale, Dakar, Senegal in 2014. Mutu’s work is featured in numerous international public and private collections, including Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; The Hague, Netherlands; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Saatchi Gallery, London; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and San Francisco Museum of Contemporary Art, CA.

Mutu has received numerous awards and grants, including the United States Artist Grant (2014); the Asher B. Durand Artist of the Year Award, Brooklyn Museum (2013); and Deutsche Guggenheim Artist of the Year Award (2010).

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