The New Museum will present a major solo exhibition of work by Wangechi Mutu, bringing together more than one hundred works across painting, collage, drawing, sculpture, and film to present the full breadth of her practice from the mid-1990s to today. On view March 2–June 4, 2023, “Wangechi Mutu: Intertwined” will take over the entire museum, encompassing the three main floors, lobby, “Screens Series” program on the lower level, seventh floor Sky Room, and a new commission for the building’s glass façade. Curated by Vivian Crockett, Curator, and Margot Norton, Allen and Lola Goldring Senior Curator, with Ian Wallace, Curatorial Assistant, “Intertwined” will trace connections between recent developments in Mutu’s sculptural practice and her decades-long exploration of the legacies of colonialism, globalization, and African and diasporic cultural traditions.
The exhibition will include some of Mutu’s earliest works on paper and small-scale sculptures and extend to new and recent works, some made of natural materials sourced in Nairobi such as wood and soil and others cast in bronze. The Second Floor of the exhibition will draw connections between the artist’s collage-based practice and her work in sculpture, including Yo Mama (2003), originally commissioned by the New Museum in 2003 for the exhibition “Black President: The Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.” This floor will also feature more recent examples of experimental collages, which fluidly combine corporeal, mechanical, and botanical forms. The Third Floor will continue to examine the evolution of Mutu’s sculptural practice, alongside works in video and collage, with an emphasis on her use of natural materials. The Fourth Floor will bring together a selection of Mutu’s collages from the Subterranea series (2021–22) alongside recent largescale works in bronze. Mutu’s sculpture In Two Canoe (2021), recently presented at Storm King Art Center, will occupy the Museum’s Lobby Gallery with a site-specific intervention by the artist.
Mutu first gained acclaim in the late 1990s for her collage-based work exploring camouflage and transformation. She extends these strategies to her work across various media, developing hybrid, fantastical forms that fuse mythical and folkloric narratives with layered sociohistorical references. Informed in part by her undergraduate training in anthropology and by her experience living and working in New York and Nairobi, Mutu’s practice consistently challenges the ways in which cultures and histories have traditionally been classified.
“Intertwined” offers audiences the opportunity to see thematic throughlines and progressions across the arc of Mutu’s influential career. In particular, this survey highlights the important role that New York institutions have played in the development of her practice—from early commissions at the New Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem, and the former Museum of African Art to her historic 2019 commission for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s façade and her recent presentation at Storm King Art Center.
The most complete survey of Mutu’s work to date, “Intertwined” will be a unique opportunity to see the range and depth of the artist’s practice across her twenty-five-year career. At the New Museum, her most notable series and monumental works to be presented together with lesser- known projects and early examples that have seldom been shown.
“Mutu’s work has long been characterized by a sense of permeable boundaries and hybridity, invested in the complex encounters of bodies, sites, and structures. Her work grapples with contemporary realities and proffers new models for a radically changed future informed by feminism, Afrofuturism, and interspecies symbiosis,” said Vivian Crockett, Curator, New Museum.
“Mutu’s work presciently addresses some of today’s most vital questions concerning historical violence and its impact on women, and our inextricable ties to one another, our ecosystems, and all life forms with which we share our planet,” continued Margot Norton, Allen and Lola Goldring Senior Curator, New Museum.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue co-published by the New Museum and Phaidon featuring new essays by Tina Campt, Maureen Mahon, and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor; an interview with Mutu by Crockett and Norton; and an artist roundtable moderated by Nana Adusei-Poku with Firelei Báez, Kandis Williams, and Kiyan Williams.