Critics’ Picks

Bloody Old Head Games (detail), 2005.

Bloody Old Head Games (detail), 2005.

San Francisco

Wangechi Mutu

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
151 Third Street
December 16, 2005–April 2, 2006

Abuse of power comes as no surprise, as Jenny Holzer so lucidly put it some twenty-five years ago, and it remains a fitting slogan for the current geopolitical climate. Wangechi Mutu's skin-toned collages and body-referencing installation addresses the same subject—misused authority—with a range of heated corporeal references. Her site-specific installation, titled The Chief's Lair Is a Bloody Mess, includes two substantial collages, a series of sculptures, and wall works, and manages to address the dour tenor of the times by including wine bottles that drip their contents to the floor in blood-like splatters, infusing the gallery with earthy odors and Catholic subtexts. The bottles are suspended above a series of early American chairs with grafted-on leg extensions that make them seem like rickety thronelike spawn of a Louise Bourgeois spider. They face a truly dazzling constellation of red-tinted “wounds” that are gouged right out of a looming gallery wall. It’s difficult not to think of violence in Iraq, though unlike our regulated media, Mutu pictures it with passion, color, and difficult truth.