Wangechi Mutu’s Exhibit Is A Reminder That There’s No Place Like Home

"Throw" (2016) by Wangechi Mutu.

Inside the artist’s solo show at The Contemporary Austin

The following feature appears in the September 2017 issue of NYLON.

“That's always a tough one," curator Heather Pesanti says when asked why she loves the work of the 45-year-old Kenyan-born, Brooklyn-based artist Wangechi Mutu, whose solo show at The Contemporary Austin opens this month. Pesanti pauses, possibly considering the many themes present in Mutu's oeuvre of sculpture, collage, and video, then answers. “She's got so many layers to her work. There's the spiritual and cosmological side, and then there's the supernatural and sci-fi side. There's the African folkloric side and the Afro-futuristic element, but these are all indirect. They're nuanced and nondidactic in the way that [she] goes about it."

Pesanti believes that Mutu's recent relocation to Kenya has contributed to the shift from the two-dimensional collage depictions of black female figures that she is best known for. “She grew up in Nairobi and then moved to the U.S. [in the '90s] to study art. She now has a studio in Nairobi and more of her art-making is happening there," Pesanti says. “The earth and the clay of Nairobi are coming into her work in a really big way." According to Pesanti, Mutu refers to her birthplace as her “alien mother," since she hadn't spent time there in so long that parts of it feel familiar, but in many ways, it also feels foreign.

Among the works in the show are a new version of Water Woman, an onyx-colored mermaid that will be installed as an outdoor sculpture overlooking a lagoon on the museum’s property; a site-specific edition of "Throw", a performative action painting during which Mutu creates a black paper pulp and hurls it at the wall until she’s out of ammo; and "This Second Dreamer", an African-inspired interpretation of a classical bust, turned on its side with details like bantu knots.

Much like Mutu, Pesanti and The Contemporary Austin chose to defy curatorial tradition in order to allow for more artistic freedom. “I like to have a light touch when it comes to doing a solo show for an artist,” she says. “I think our museum takes pride in being very artist-centric and allowing artists to experiment and do things they want to do that they maybe aren’t as comfortable doing at a big museum,” she explains. “It’s more of a laboratory for artists to manifest a new direction, if they want to.” Pesanti adds, “Austin is a very specific city. I hope people feel like they’re seeing something fresh.”

"This Second Dreamer" (2017) by Wangechi Mutu

“My greatest inspiration for the work I produce is quite honestly the experience of living in awareness of my selfhood,” Mutu says via email. “The everyday movement and activity of breathing, thinking, eating, walking, talking, and being a living Homosapien female, African, and the ability to ponder quite earnestly how complicated it feels to exist in the flesh in my body on a day-to-day basis is miraculous.”

"Water Woman" (detail, 2017) by Wangechi Mutu

Photo by Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images.

It marks her third duet with Nas

Here are some words that I never expected to read or hear again: There is a new song with Amy Winehouse. But here we are in 2019, and Salaam Remi has granted me a wish. On Valentine's Day, the Grammy-nominated producer and frequent Winehouse collaborator (also responsible for hits like Miguel's "Come Through & Chill") released "Find My Love" which features rapper Nas and that powerful and haunting voice that I have come to love and cherish so dearly.

Representatives for Remi said that the Winehouse vocals were from an old jam session the two had. Remi was a producer on both of Winehouse's albums, Frank and Back to Black. "Find My Love" marks the third time Winehouse and Nas have done duets under the direction of Remi. They were previously heard together on "Like Smoke," a single from her 2011 posthumous album Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures, and "Cherry Wine" from Nas' 2012 album Life Is Good. Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011, before they could complete production on her third album. My heart is still broken about it as she is by far my favorite artist.

"Find My Love" is set to appear on Remi's Do It for the Culture 2, a collection of songs curated by him. Check it out, below.



Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

"In the midst of chaos there's opportunity"

Following the travesty that was Fyre Festival, Ja Rule wants to take another stab at creating a music festival. Good luck getting that off the ground.

On Thursday, the rapper spoke to TMZ, where he revealed that he was planning to relaunch Icon, an app used to book entertainers, which is similar to Billy McFarland's Fyre app. He told the outlet that he wanted to create a festival similar to Fyre to support it.

"[Fyre Festival] is heartbreaking to me. It was something that I really, really wanted to be special and amazing, and it just didn't turn out that way, but in the midst of chaos there's opportunity, so I'm working on a lot of new things," he says. He then gets into the fact that he wants to form a music festival. "[Fyre] is the most iconic festival that never was... I have plans to create the iconic music festival, but you didn't hear it from me."

Ja Rule actually doesn't seem to think he is at all responsible for what came from Fyre Fest, claiming in a Twitter post that he was "hustled, scammed, bamboozled, hood winked, led astray." Even if that's his feeling, he should realize that anyone involved with Fyre shouldn't ever try their hand at music festivals again.