Julie Mehretu, ‘Looking Back to a Bright New Future’, 2003, PinchukArtCentre

About Julie Mehretu

Julie Mehretu’s work is about layers: the physical layering of images, marks, and mediums, and the figurative layering of time, space, place, and history. Working in a large scale, Mehretu draws on the 21st-century city for inspiration, transferring its energy into her gestural sweeps of paint and built-up marks in ink and pencil—often transposed from projections—and condensing seemingly infinite urban narratives, architectural views, and street plans into single unified compositions. “The narratives come together to create this overall picture that you see from the distance,” she says. “As you come close to it […] the big picture completely shatters and there are these numerous small narratives happening.” Mehretu layers a range of influences and art historical references as well, from the dynamism espoused by the Futurists, to the scale and physicality of Abstract Expressionism, to the divergent markmaking of Albrecht Dürer, Eastern calligraphy, and graffiti. Mehretu was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2005.

Ethiopian-American, b. 1970, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, based in New York, New York