Hangin’ in Texas

Wangechi Mutu

Exhibition: Nov 11, 2004 – Jan 23, 2005

With Hangin’ in Texas Mutu transitions from drawings to a re-engagement with performance. She combines collage with video and related objects in an installation that bears witness to scarred African refugees, is provoked by the execution lore of Texas, and ultimately makes a space for contemplating universal motives for killing.

Like a forest of deteriorating human bodies, suspended wine bottles drip pools of red onto the floor in Mutu’s space. Compounding the sense of mortality is a ripe odor and mass of stigmata-like wounds dug into walls. At the far end of the room is a wide and low video of a woman, the artist herself, in a rocky desert. She hacks at tree trunks with a machete; the ubiquitous tool used in rural Africa for agriculture and violent acts of war.

If the installation mourns death, it also offers a space for release. In the adjacent conference room are several framed collages. Like Surrealist’s exquisite corpses, they combine disparate layers (mushroom-like shape, woman’s head, tumory mass, arching figure) to create a space for transcendence. Through these images Mutu fabricates a metaphoric moment for accessing another world.

Hangin’ in Texas combines media to continue Wangechi Mutu’s meditation on unnecessary carnage, and her interrogation of the idea that killing—of criminals in Texas, of a people in Rwanda, of terrorists in Iraq—can absolve humans from harm or save anyone.


Wangechi Mutu

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Kenyan-born Wangechi Mutu combines fashion magazine imagery and ink to create elegantly grotesque collages of the female body. Surreal and distinctive, the works at once reference ethnology, war, and portrayals of the female figure in mass media. Realized both on Mylar paper and directly on the wall, Mutu’s seductive hybrids—swan necks, talons for feet, distended bellies, mechanical appendages—use beauty to smuggle in the politics of violence and mutilation.
In the 1990s Mutu explored stereotypes of femininity and her African heritage through performative works. Since then she has primarily made drawings. That’s my death mask you’re wearing (2004) is emblematic of the collages—kaleidoscopic pools of reds and browns form a lithe female framed by tufts of savannah grass. The vamping body and magazine cutout eyes and lips imply glamour, yet swirls of ink create the impression of skin grafts. A missing arm, protruding prostheses, raw face, and heavy diamond earring support a darker narrative about the bloody effects of conflicts in Africa waged over scarce resources controlled by the West. Ever-sensuous, Mutu’s drawings are powerful critiques of contemporary media and cultural genocide.
Wangechi Mutu received her MFA from Yale University, New Haven, CT in 2000. Solo shows include Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, CA and Jamaica Center for the Arts and Learning, Queens, NY, both in 2003. Group exhibitions in 2004 include Fight or Flight, Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria, New York, NY; Pin-up, Tate Modern, London, England; and Figuratively, The Studio Museum, Harlem, NY. The artist lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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Dan Cameron

Newport Beach, California

From 2012 to 2015 he was Chief Curator at the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach, California. In 2006, Dan Cameron founded the Biennial Prospect New Orleans, where he worked at until 2011. From 1995 to 2005 he was Senior Curator at the New Museum, New York, where he developed numerous group exhibitions, such as East Village USA and Living inside the Grid, and several individual shows dedicated to the artists Martin Wong, William Kentridge, Carolee Schneemann, Carroll Dunham, Doris Salcedo, José Antonio Hernández Diez, among others.
As independent curator he has organized many exhibitions that brought him international attention, such as El arte y su doble (Fundación Caixa, Madrid, 1987); El jardín salvaje (Fundación Caixa, Barcelona, 1991); Cocido y crudo (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 1995), among many others. In 2003, he was the Artistic Director of the 8th Istanbul Biennial, and in 2006, Co-curator of the 5th Taipei Biennial.
He has published hundreds of texts in books, catalogues and magazines, and has given numerous talks and conferences at museums and universities around the world, also carrying out an important teaching activity in New York.

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