Julie Mehretu: about the space of half an hour

Marian Goodman Gallery is pleased to present about the space of half an hour, a solo exhibition of new work by Julie Mehretu,  now on view through Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020. This will be the third solo exhibition of the artist at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York. 

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A walkthrough of the exhibition at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.
Julie Mehretu's studio at Denniston Hill

Denniston Hill, New York
Courtesy the Mehretu Studio

Referencing the book of Revelation and presaging the threshold of foreboding silence in heaven after the breaking of the seventh seal, about the space of half an hour will include new paintings completed over the past year. Comprised of two distinct bodies of work, the first cycle of works was initiated prior to the pandemic, and the second cycle was made during the shutdown, in quarantine in upstate New York at Denniston Hill – an artist collective and residency program founded by Mehretu, Paul Pfeiffer and Lawrence Chua as a site for interdisciplinary creation, interrogation and debate.
Mehretu’s new works reimagine abstraction and her language of gestural marks in an epic theater of saturated color. Providing vistas of clarity and opacity, transparency and impenetrability, Mehretu builds her compositions with blurs of light and contour. Navigating disruption and cohesion through motion and gravity – swirls, marks, streaks, halftone patterns, and glitchy computer shapes – Mehretu punctuates her paintings with vibrant color, indenting recesses and opaque intervals of space and time below.
Presented in the North Gallery, the suite of seven paintings created during the Covid-19 shutdown is embodied by emergent images whose traces are both metaphoric and visible. Translucent remains hover near the surface, as if a residue of this moment, a remnant of what is submerged within. The latter, the underlying source materials that initiate the works, are furtive and dynamic, metamorphosizing into vulnerable but prophetic forms that activate the canvas’s ground to surface layers through time. In her intuitive calibration of these escalating strata, Mehretu employs multiple techniques to conjure ephemeral areas of imagination, liberation, haunting, mourning and rest, inviting the viewer to merge and interact in the experience.
paintings in progress by Julie Mehretu at Denniston Hill
Beginning with a photographic image as a point of departure, whose original is blurred and erased, Mehretu adds layer upon layer 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. Implicit is our invitation to participate as witnesses to evidence and catastrophes of our time, to conceive of new possibilities. 
Alluding to the mediation of reality that mutates in and perpetrates our collective consciousness, each canvas resonates with subjects, from a flickering of events moving across our psychological screens, to migration, dispossession, and global phenomena.
These volatile truths channel the imagination, revealing a piercing engagement through digital abstraction, which provides a space for investigation, autonomy, and invention. Other images abound, portals to memory and history, as well as potentialities of other paths forward.
The group of monumental paintings on view in the North Gallery Viewing Room, which continue into the South Gallery, was created over the past two years and coincided with the most recent work in Mehretu’s current retrospective. Sweeping in scale, they contain a dynamic choreography of movement and swaths of pulsating color, evoking arenas of cataclysmic events. Subliminal subjects subconsciously call to mind a present trauma. Proliferating below the surface, they erupt in a riot of hues that are both exuberant and menacing.
From the migration crisis, to global warming and California wildfires; ecological havoc and Hurricane Irma; from Charlottesville and the rise of the right in international politics, to incongruous celebrations of fascism and cultural ruin, Mehretu’s work is fueled by social concerns of our moment. Reaching beyond the present, her references range from the historic and literary to the biblical, as in the systemic maelstrom of mechanized urban space and uprising in Orient (after D. Cherry, post Irma and summer); the summoning of light against sutured black shadows in A Mercy (after T. Morrison); or the dystopian flames of Hineni II, a reference to the book of Genesis and to prayers of sacrifice and humility.
In the Third Floor Viewing Room, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, a suite of four new etchings from 2020, will be shown for the first time. Published by Borch Editions, these works reiterate the parity between drawing, painting and print making as of the utmost importance to the artist.

News images of protests and worldwide demonstrations are the starting point of the large-scale aquatint/photogravures in Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Initially, Mehretu distorted the images to become abstract ‘blurs’ of light, shadow and colour. These ‘blurs’ were then inkjet-printed across the full surface of the final prints, which were then mounted and covered with two layers of drawing film. 
The digitized files of these two combined blurs and drawings were made into two photogravure plates. Printing them together in the different hues creates dramatic light and shadow play, that shifts in and out between the colors. 
Due to the pandemic, the prints were completed by sending plates, then proofs, back and forth between America and Europe.
Exhibited alongside the new editions is a stirring painting titled by Mehretu in homage to the legacy of the late writer, educator and curator Okwui Enwezor.
Mehretu’s touring retrospective which has recently opened at The High Museum, Atlanta, is in its second venue following the inaugural exhibition at LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California, which opened in November 2019. It will remain on view in Atlanta through January 31, 2021. A major catalogue was published by Prestel in 2019 to accompany the exhibition. The retrospective will also travel to The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, opening in March 2021, and to The Walker Museum of Art, Minneapolis. 
A portrait of Julie Mehretu

Portrait by Teju Cole

Named recently as one of the 100 most influential people of 2020 by Time Magazine, Julie Mehretu, (b. 1970, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) lives and works in New York City. She received a B.A. from Kalamazoo College, Michigan, studied at the University Cheik Anta Diop, Dakar Senegal, and received a Master’s of Fine Art with honors from The Rhode Island School of Design in 1997. She has since received many prestigious awards including the MacArthur Fellowship in 2005, the U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts Award in 2015, and the Liberty Award for Artistic Leadership, New York in 2018. In 2017, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Letters.

 

 

CONTACT
Press Inquiries: linda@mariangoodman.com
 General Inquires: newyork@mariangoodman.com

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