Julie Mehretu

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Biography

Julie Mehretu’s works engage us in a dynamic visual articulation of contemporary experience, a depiction of social behavior and the psychogeography of space.

Julie Mehretu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1970 and lives and works in New York City.  She received a Master's of Fine Art with honors from The Rhode Island School of Design in 1997, a Bachelor's from Kalamazoo College in 1992, and studied at University Cheik Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal. 

In exploring palimpsests of history, from geological time to a modern day phenomenology of the social, Julie Mehretu's works engage us in a dynamic visual articulation of contemporary experience, a depiction of social behavior and the psychogeography of space. Culled from archival sources-from ancient city plans, civic buildings, urban designs, public squares, tombs, palaces, ruins, etc-her paintings combine meticulous graphic drawing with spontaneous gesture. Mehretu begins with the premise of architecture as a medium of social history and power and proceeds to imagine a new present, a fictional topography realized through a formal vocabulary of line, color, gesture, markings, grids, characters, swarms, blurs, washes, which are overlaid and stratified on the surface of the canvas.  

Mehretu is a recipient of many awards, including the The MacArthur Award (2005), The American Art Award granted by The Whitney Museum of American Art (2005), The Rhode Island School of Design Alumni Council Artistic Achievement Award, RI (2006), and the Berlin Prize: Guna S. Mundheim Fellowship at The American Academy in Berlin, Germany (2007). In 2015 she was awarded the US Department of State Medal of Arts Award. 

An important mid-career survey of Mehretu's work opened in 2019 at Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, California and will travel to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in 2020. In 2017 Mehretu unveiled a major new commission of two vastly large site-specfic paintings at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California. Her work has been shown in other recent exhibitions at Kettle's Yard at the University of Cambridge, UK (2019); Fundacion Botiín, Santander, Spain (2018); Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto, Portugal (2017); the Modern Art Museu, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (2016); the Guggenheim Museum, New York (2010); a major traveling show which began at MUSAC - Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, Spain in 2006 and traveled to the Kunstverein Hannover, Germany and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark in 2007. 

 

Julie Mehretu’s works engage us in a dynamic visual articulation of contemporary experience, a depiction of social behavior and the psychogeography of space.

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