Julie Mehretu, Patrisse Cullors, and Tourmaline are among Time magazine’s most influential people of 2020.

Justin Kamp
Sep 23, 2020 9:31PM, via Time

Black Lives Matter co-founders Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi on the cover of Time magazine. Photo by Kayla Reefer for Time.

The painter Julie Mehretu, performance artist Patrisse Cullors, and filmmaker Tourmaline were among Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of 2020, released today. The list, which also includes figures ranging from writer Angela Davis to basketball player Dwayne Wade, highlights each entrant's engagement with, and contribution to, contemporary culture.

Mehretu, in a text by architect David Adjaye, was commended for her abstract paintings that reflect “our often chaotic socio-political climate” through a complex thicket of grids, vectors and architectural diagrams. Last year, Mehretu’s work was featured in the 58th Venice Biennale as well as a career survey at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that was scheduled to travel to the Whitney Museum in June of this year before it was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Addis Ababa–born, New York–based painter is one of the most successful artists of her generation, having received numerous grants, residencies, and awards, including a 2005 MacArthur Fellowship (the so-called “genius grant”), and participated in most major biennials including Sharjah (in 2015), Gwangju (in 2014), Prospect.1 in New Orleans (in 2008), Sydney (in 2006), and São Paulo and the Whitney Biennial (both in 2004). According to Artsy data, demand for her work nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017, and is surging again this year—there have already been 29% more inquiries on her work on Artsy in 2020 than in 2019.

In a text by renowned writer Janet Mock, the artist and filmmaker Tourmaline was highlighted for her role in challenging the “whitewashed historical narrative of the LGBTQ+ movement.” Tourmaline’s films, including her most recent short, Salacia, which entered the Museum of Modern Art’s collection this summer, highlight how Black trans women have been essential to the ongoing fight for queer liberation.

Cullors, meanwhile, was spotlighted alongside her fellow Black Lives Matter co-founders Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. The text, written by Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton, highlighted the importance of the movement in not only demanding accountability from leaders, but in comforting those who have already lost loved ones to racist killings. Cullors, a performance artist in addition to activist, recently opened an art space in Los Angeles focused on combating gentrification and promoting prison abolition.

Last year’s edition of the Time magazine list included the artists Luchita Hurtado (who died last month) and David Hockney.

Justin Kamp
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019