Julie Mehretu – Abstract Artist

8/21/18

"Explore Art With Me"

I came across an article titled "Who are the Top 10 Most Expensive Living Women Artists?" I wasn't sure what the relevance was with regard to such information and found the title a bit strange. I guess that's why I kept reading! The article had to do with living women artists and compensation for their work. Landmark moments in this art arena and crazy amounts of money that I'm not sure I will ever fully understand nor care to. One of the women listed in the article was abstract artist Julie Mehretu. Her work is very unusual and has a distinct energy. To me it felt a little frenetic. Lines, shapes things connected and disconnected going in all kinds of directions.

"Black City"

As I read further I came to understand a sense of order underneath the surface structure. Planning and a hidden narrative do exist as a foundation. Her process includes research and she often incorporates materials like maps, newspaper clippings, architectural drawings etc. to create layers upon which she applies other mediums like paint, ink, pencil to formulate a final composition where the layers are not longer visible. I almost hate to use the word composition because there is an organic energy to her work that seems to negate any sense of order even though it's there. I'm not sure these pieces are completely planned either but more incorporate the artists response to the substructure.

Detail of "Howl" 2017

I was particularly drawn to this work "Howl" eon I, II at the MOMA in San Francisco. The exhibit consisted of two large paintings measuring 27' by 32'wide. Mehretu created these on the idea of the "American West as a site of both great possibility and great destruction." The commissioned project began with Mehretu collecting images of landscape paintings from the West by artists like Frederic Edwin Church and Albert Bierstadt. She placed those among other more contemporary photos of riots and protests which as a collaboration challenged ideas regarding the American Dream. Enlarging the images until they were pixilated beyond recognition, she then had them printed on canvas then applied layers of clear acrylic until they became one with the surface. It's at this point that Mehretu begins painting. I really liked this last photo which helped clarify the sense of scale in the two paintings. I think for me the image also conveys the feeling of a frontier and the expansive potential and sometimes dark nature of unknown territory. If you care to learn more about this contemporary woman artist just give a click HERE!

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