The past five years have seen a significant shift in the development of Julie Mehretu’s paintings; in place of meticulous architectural renderings, the starting point for the most recent series of works is the immediacy and urgency of photojournalism. Contemporary news photographs, of global events ranging from the riots in Charlottesville and Grenfell Tower fire in London, are blurred and abstracted before being airbrushed onto the canvas, leaving the source image as a ghostly presence behind the artist’s expressive, insistent mark-making. Like her earlier paintings, these new works are visually explosive, layered canvases, with a calligraphic line that has itself evolved to be looser and more gestural. These marks, often guided compositionally by the background image, function as an act of resistance, bearing witness to the artist’s body and movement to focus on the role each of us play in helping imagine a new world.
Julie Mehretu is a world-renowned painter; born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1970; who lives and works in New York City and Berlin. She received a master’s of fine art with honors from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1997. Mehretu is a recipient of many awards, including the MacArthur Award (2005) and the US Department of State Medal of Arts Award (2015). Mehretu makes large-scale, gestural paintings that are built up through layers of acrylic paint on canvas overlaid with mark-making using pencil, pen, ink and paint. Mehretu’s work conveys a layering and compression of time, space, and place and a collapse of art-historical references, from the dynamism of the Italian futurists and the geometric abstraction of Malevich to the enveloping scale of abstract expressionist color field painting. She has shown her work extensively in international and national solo and group exhibitions and is represented in public and private collections around the world. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is represented by Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.