The Storm King Art Center in upstate New York will launch its 2022 season next month with an exhibition of evocative sculptures by the Kenya-born artist Wangechi Mutu, the artist who devised the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s inaugural façade commission in 2019.
Mutu is best-known for making large-scale collages and sculptures of chimeric creatures that symbolise themes related to race and gender, and that challenge Eurocentric aesthetics.
The Storm King exhibition will feature bronze sculptures installed in the indoor and outdoor spaces of the centre that will aim to emphasise Mutu’s interest in the natural world, something that has “been present but not at the forefront of conversations around her work”, according to Nora Lawrence, the centre’s artistic director and chief curator.
“Mutu’s work is rooted in the idea of karmic power, or a future where humans have reconnected with the environment, where human and non-human elements merge and create a greater force because of their union,” Lawrence tells The Art Newspaper. “The landscape at Storm King is an ideal platform for understanding this facet of her work.”
The commission includes a monumental fountain spanning 15 ft. in length that will flank an area known as “museum hill”, a focal point of the sculpture park that offers panoramic views of the grounds and houses another iconic sculptural fountain, the work North South East West (1988/2009/2014-15) by Lynda Benglis. Mutu’s work will take the form of a water-filled canoe holding anthropomorphic female figures that are intertwined with tendrilous roots resembling mangroves.
The exhibition will also include pieces that made their debut at Gladstone Gallery in New York in 2021 such as Crocodylus (2020)—a commanding sculpture that fuses elements of a female figure and a crocodile—and new iterations of cast-bronze woven baskets containing the figure’s eggs, as well as other works made with organic materials that visualise an amalgamation of female goddesses, animals, plants and extraterrestrials.
The show will also feature recent films, a lesser-known part of Mutu’s practice, and will be accompanied by a series of public programmes due to be announced in the coming weeks.
A site-specific commission by the American sculptor Brandon Ndife will also be unveiled this season as part of the centre’s ninth iteration of its Outlooks programme, an initiative launched in 2013 to champion the work of emerging and mid-career artists that has previously featured projects by Martha Tuttle and Virginia Overton.
Ndife, who earned his MFA from Bard College in 2020, is devising his largest sculptural work to date, titled Shade Trees (2022). The work will be installed in an area of the centre where maple trees divide the park into rectangular quadrants, and comprise magnified household objects, like kitchenware and furniture, cast in foam and resin. The work conceptually critiques the redlining of real estate, which disproportionately impacts marginalised communities, and aims to evoke the idea that city planning favours the rich, based on studies that have determined a discrepancy in the planting of trees in affluent and poorer communities.
- Wangechi Mutu and Outlooks: Brandon Ndife, Storm King Art Center, 21 May-7 November