Julie 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 thick streams of 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 Mehretu’s work conveys a layering and compression of time, space and place and a collapse of art historical references, from the dynamism of the Italian Futurists and the geometric abstraction of Malevich to the enveloping scale of Abstract Expressionist colour field painting. In her highly worked canvases, Mehretu creates new narratives using abstracted images of cities, histories, wars and geographies with a frenetic mark making that for the artist becomes a way of signifying social agency as well suggesting an unravelling of a personal biography.
Mehretu’s points of departure are architecture and the city, particularly the accelerated, compressed and densely populated urban environments of the 21st Century. Her canvases overlay different architectural features such as columns, façades and porticoes with geographical schema such as charts, building plans and city maps and architectural renderings, seen from multiple perspectives, at once aerial, cross-section and isometric. Her paintings present a tornado of visual incident where gridded cities become fluid and flattened, like many layers of urban graffiti. Mehretu has described her rich canvases as “story maps of no location”, seeing them as pictures into an imagined, rather than actual reality. Through its cacophony of marks, her work seems to represent the speed of the modern city depicted, conversely, with the time-aged materials of pencil and paint.
Mehretu was born in Addis Ababa in 1970 and lives and works in New York. She has exhibited widely including solo exhibitions at Serralves Museum, Porto and Centro Botín, Santander (2017); Gebre Kristos Desta Center, Addis Ababa and Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle (2016); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2010); Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin (2009); Detroit Institute of Art and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek (2007); MUSAC, Léon (2006); St Louis Art Museum (2005); REDCAT, Los Angeles and Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo (2004) and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2003).
In 2005 Mehretu was the recipient of the American Art Award from the Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as the prestigious MacArthur Fellows Award. In 2015 she was awarded the US Department of State Medal of Arts Award. In 2017, a monumental two-part painting, ‘HOWL, eon (I, II)’ commissioned by San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California was unveiled as a major, long-term installation in the lobby of the museum. Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge will host an exhibition of Mehretu works on paper presented alongside Louise Bourgeois Artist Rooms in January 2019. An upcoming survey co-organised by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum, New York, opens at LACMA in autumn 2019 and will tour to other major US venues throughout 2020.
21 September 2018 - 03 November 2018
White Cube Mason's Yard
Julie 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 thick streams of 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 colour field painting.MORE DETAILS