Kynde Kiefel Sheehan Gallery 509.540.2577
Whitman College held a YouTube virtual dedication on May 14 for the Wangechi Mutu "Underground Hornship" sculpture at ubne.ws/2WMAFOP.
It is the newest addition to the college's campus art collection, according to Professor Lisa Uddin, who spoke on the dedication video. Viewing will open as soon as restrictions ease on campus, said Sheehan Gallery's Kynde Kiefel in a release. It will be installed in Penrose Library on the main floor/level 2.
The polished bronze is by internationally renowned Nairobi-New York artist Wangechi Mutu, cast in 2018 at the Modern Art Foundry in Queens, N.Y., and measures 23½ inches high by 32 inches wide and eight inches deep.
The professor has written extensively about Wangechi's work and teaches her art in art history and visual culture studies courses at Whitman.
Wangechi has cast sculptures with Walla Walla Foundry since 2018. Kynde's husband, Jeremy Lilwall, who narrated a part on the video, did the patinas with Wangechi for The Metropolitan Museum of Art "The Seated," installed in 2019 and shown in the dedication video.
Lisa discussed with Sheehan Gallery Director Daniel Forbes and Kynde about acquisitions they could make to the collection that are or could be taught in her classes, Kynde said.
"A piece by Wangechi Mutu was at the top of that wish list and spoke to so many disciplines and themes being taught at Whitman College," Kynde said.
After Lisa gave a presentation of possibilities to the Art Advisory Committee at Whitman, they voted to purchase Underground Hornship with the Gaiser Art Endowment. The sculpture was purchased from the Carolina Nitsch Gallery in New York City.
Lisa describes the piece as “A magnificent creaturely sculpture in polished and patinated bronze. Its arrival, or perhaps I should say, surfacing, here at Whitman is an invitation for our community to embark on what critics Angela Naimou and Tiffany Barber have described as “modes of world-making that push at the limits of our very capacity to imagine publics.”
"Like much of Mutu’s expansive body of work, this piece stages a gorgeous, uneasy entanglement of organic and inorganic forms that cohere around what appears to be a singular figure only to explode it across de-territorialized terrains that are hard to fathom.
"With smooth, reflective tips extending an unruly reach from a mangled base, the Hornship is part bird, part antler shed, part insect, part space ship. Here, there are uncanny encounters to be had with, for example, Constantin Brancusi’s iconic "Bird in Space" from 1928, or its industrial analog in the streamline designs of the 1930s.
"We might also recall those bronze sculptures that continue to celebrate frontier myths called the American West and its ideological partner, the African wilderness. At the same time, the piece seems to enact some surrealist encounters: the violence of Alberto Giacometti’s "Woman with her Throat Cut" from 1932. Or the mighty maternal powers of a towering Louise Bourgeois arachnid.”
Wangechi is known primarily for her painting, sculpture, film and performance work. Born in Kenya, she has lived and established her career in New York for more than 20 years. In her diverse practice, Mutu reflects on sexuality, femininity, ecology, politics, the rhythms and chaos of the world and the often damaging or futile efforts to control it.