Julie Mehretu: Black City
Text by Agustin Perez Rubio, Marcus Steinweg, Cay Sophie Rabinowitz.
Life has taken Julie Mehretu from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to New York the long way. Now the New York Times writes that her canvases--multilayered, futuristic visual worlds where historical and fictional landscapes meet--"make history painting important again." Each one pulls from diverse sources, noteworthy among them Japanese manga, Chinese landscape art, Ethiopian illuminated books, Baroque engraving in the style of Dürer, graffiti and the geometric abstractions of Kazimir Malevich and Vasily Kandinsky. And they are often structured on architectural drawing, which appeals to Mehretu "because there is no way that you could make architecture that doesn't work." Plans for buildings are metaphors "for systems, for rational efforts to construct the world that we exist within, even though so many things happen in a very organic or irrational way." These angular architectural spaces swarm with organic forms, with communities marching to war, confronting systems and creating elaborate new civilizations. Human relationships unfold, interacting with the built and controlled world. Of her interest in these warring factions and in the "aggressive and forceful nature of history," Mehretu says that, "most of my personal ancestry comes from different cultures that, at one time or another, were at war." This is the first comprehensive monograph on a strong new talent in contemporary painting.