Education

An exploration of the work of Julie Mehretu

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Beth Kroupa 
Yonkers Middle School, New York
Grades 7-8, including general and special education classes

At the end of 2020, the education team was visited by Middle School teacher Beth Kroupa to view our Julie Mehretu exhibition: about the space of half an hour.  Inspired by elements of Mehretu’s work, Beth put together curriculum for her middle schoolers which would introduce them to Julie’s work, her politicized landscapes, and the concept of using layers in art. The class was conducted remotely and the students were therefore allowed to use any materials they had on hand at home.

Download Lesson Plan

The Exhibition

Mehretu’s new works reimagine abstraction and her language of gestural marks in an epic theater of saturated color. She begins...
Julie Mehretu
Black Monolith, for Okwui Enwezor (Charlottesville), 2017-2020
Ink and acrylic on canvas
84 x 72 in. (213.4 x 182.9 cm)

Mehretu’s new works reimagine abstraction and her language of gestural marks in an epic theater of saturated color. She begins with a photographic image as a point of departure, whose original is blurred and erased, upon which she adds layers in a temporal process of screen print, ink, acrylic, and drawing, using paint, airbrush, sandpaper and erasure to realize and respond to the potential of an image.

The underlying source materials are taken from images depicting the migration crisis, global warming and the California wildfires, ecological havoc,...
Julie Mehretu
Loop (B. Lozano, Bolsonaro eve), 2019-2020
Ink and acrylic on canvas
96 x 120 in. (243.8 x 304.8 cm)

The underlying source materials are taken from images depicting the migration crisis, global warming and the California wildfires, ecological havoc, and Hurricane Irma, Charlottesville and the rise of the right in international politics. Her layered mark-making is made in response to these social issues and is visible in the chaotic lines and colors contained within the paintings. Mehretu’s titles sometimes allude to these social concerns, giving the viewer clues into each painting’s origin. Some examples include Rise (Charlottesville), Loop (B. Lozano, Bolsonaro eve), and Orient (after D. Cherry, post Irma and summer).

 

I realized Julie Mehretu was trying to say something in her art.

                                                            —Na'Relle           

Process

The students began the lessons first by discussing Mehretu’s work and watching Art 21 videos. They followed this up by discussing various societal issues which were important to them including racial inequality, pollution, and the Covid-19 crisis. Additionally, the students discussed more personal issues they were having that they might wish to portray in their work such as family disagreements, etc. Students were then introduced to the concept of using layers within art to create depth and express themselves in an abstract way. They began this process by dividing their concerns and thoughts, or their “theme” into three parts which would become their visual layers. The layers they could choose to use were very open, ranging from hand-drawn, found materials, objects, mixed media, digital layers, take-out menus, magazines, etc. The final projects were extremely diverse. Some students chose more literal shapes and elements to layer their pieces, while others used abstraction as a response to their subject matter. 

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