This exhibition marks the first-ever comprehensive retrospective on the work of Julie Mehretu. Known for her large-scale abstract canvases, Mehretu uses painting techniques that range from precisely drawn lines and layering of various media to brushed, scratched, and rubbed marks to balletic gestures of varying weight and viscosity. Within her superimposed picture planes is imagery that expresses the complexities of our civilization—examining history, colonialism, capitalism, geopolitics, war, diaspora, and displacement—in all of its chaos and beauty.
Julie Mehretu covers the full arc of the artist’s career, from her early work featuring architectural and graphic elements, geographical schema, and plans for public spaces, to her recent bold canvases with figurative elements layered amid pixelated, printed, sprayed, and drawn gestures. The exhibition brings together approximately 35 large-scale paintings with 35 prints and drawings dating from 1996 to the present. Mehretu’s play with scale, from her intricate drawings and prints to her large canvases, will be explored in depth, as will her techniques of combining color, line, and brushstrokes to create her unique surfaces.
Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1970, Mehretu was raised in East Lansing, Michigan. Since 1999, she has lived and worked in New York, establishing herself as one of the most exciting painters working in the United States. She is a recipient of the US State Department’s National Medal of Arts (2015) and a MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant” (2005), among other awards and honors. In 2002–2003, Mehretu participated in a yearlong residency at the Walker Art Center.
Julie Mehretu is co-organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. The Walker’s presentation of the exhibition will be the final destination on a national tour, originating at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (November 3, 2019–May 17, 2020) and continuing to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (June 26–September 20, 2020) and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta (October 24, 2020–January 31, 2021).
Curators: Christine Y. Kim, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; with Rujeko Hockley, Assistant Curator, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. The Walker Art Center presentation is coordinated by Siri Engberg, Senior Curator of Visual Arts.