Opening-Day Talk: Julie Mehretu in conversation with Glenn Ligon and Kemi Ilesanmi
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Opening-Day Talk: Julie Mehretu in conversation with Glenn Ligon and Kemi Ilesanmi

Please see below for important COVID-19 vaccination, testing, and mask requirements related to this event.

In celebration of the Walker’s presentation of her nationally touring midcareer survey, please join Julie Mehretu for a conversation with Kemi Ilesanmi (executive director of the Laundromat Project) and artist Glenn Ligon (recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters) for a discussion on Mehretu’s profound 25-year multidisciplinary impact on contemporary abstraction, global geopolitics, and contested American histories. Ilesanmi led the Walker Art Center’s Artists-in-Residence program between 1998 and 2004 and made early introductions of Ligon’s and Mehretu’s works to both local Minneapolis and international communities.

The exhibition includes more than 75 drawings, paintings, and prints made from 1996 to the present. It covers a broad arc of Mehretu’s artistic evolution, revealing her early focus on drawing, graphics, and mapping and her more recent introduction of bold gestures, sweeps of saturated color, and figurative elements into her immersive, large-scale works.

Free tickets available at the Main Lobby desk beginning at 3 pm. This event will also be available to view online as a livestream.

Mask-wearing is required for this event.

For this event, the Walker will require either proof of a completed COVID-19 vaccination regimen or proof of a negative COVID-19 test (taken within 72 hours).

The COVID-19 vaccination card must show a completed regimen that concluded at least 14 days before the date of the event.

Proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test must be shown at time of entry and must match the ticket holder’s ID.

Attendees may present a physical vaccination record card, a physical negative test result, or a digital document on a mobile device (such as a photo image of a vaccination record card).

Refunds: Any ticket holder not meeting the above requirement(s) is eligible for a refund.

To find out more about the Walker’s response to COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 guidelines page.

We will continue to share updates to the Walker’s response to COVID-19 as health guidelines evolve. If you have questions or require additional assistance, please email or call 612-375-7600.

Julie Mehretu is an internationally acclaimed artist whose paintings, drawings, and prints have appeared in numerous solo and group exhibitions. In her work, Mehretu creates new narratives using abstracted and blurred images of cities, histories, geographies, wars, political upheaval, and social unrest, with a frenetic mark making that becomes a way of signifying social agency and a suggestion of unravelling of personal and collective biography. Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1970, she lives and works in New York City and Berlin. She received an MFA with honors from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1997, a BA from Kalamazoo College in 1992, and studied at University Cheik Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal. Mehretu is a recipient of many awards, including a MacArthur Award (2005), the Berlin Prize: Guna S. Mundheim Fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin, Germany (2007), and US Department of State Medal of Arts Award (2015). Julie Mehretu opened in 2019 at Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, California, and toured to High Museum of Art, GA (2020), the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2021), and Walker Art Center (2021–2022).

Glenn Ligon (b. 1960) is an artist living and working in New York. Throughout his career, Ligon has pursued an incisive exploration of American history, literature, and society across bodies of work that build critically on the legacies of modern painting and conceptual art. He is best known for his landmark text-based paintings, made since the late 1980s, which draw on the influential writings and speech of 20th-century cultural figures including James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Genet, and Richard Pryor. He received a BA from Wesleyan University and attended the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. In 2011 the Whitney Museum of American Art presented Glenn Ligon: America, a midcareer retrospective of his work that traveled nationally. Important recent shows include Grief and Grievance (2021) at the New Museum, where Ligon acted as a curatorial advisor; Des Parisiens Noirs at the Musées d’Orsay, Paris (2019); Blue Black (2017), an exhibition Ligon curated at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis; and Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions (2015), a curatorial project organized with Nottingham Contemporary and Tate Liverpool. Ligon has also been the subject of solo museum exhibitions at the Camden Arts Centre in London, the Power Plant in Toronto, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Studio Museum in Harlem, among others. His work has been included in major international exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale (2015 and 1997), Berlin Biennal (2014), Istanbul Biennal (2011, 2019), Documenta XI (2002), and Gwangju Biennale (2000). Ligon’s work is held in the permanent collections of museums worldwide including Tate Modern, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Art Institute of Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. His awards and honors include a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and the Studio Museum’s Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize.

Kemi Ilesanmi is executive director of the Laundromat Project, which advances artists and neighbors as change agents in their own communities. With 20 years of experience in the cultural arena, she is inspired by the immense possibilities for joyful justice at the intersection of arts and community. Prior to joining the LP, she was director of grants and services at Creative Capital Foundation, where she supported the work of American artists making adventurous new work. From 1998 to 2004, she was visual arts curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. While there, she organized several exhibitions, including The Squared Circle: Boxing in Contemporary Art, and ran the visual arts residency program. In 2015, she was appointed by the mayor of New York City to the Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission and has served as chair since 2020. Observer included her on the Arts Power 50 list in 2020. She has been honored by the Metropolitan Museum and Project for Empty Space and serves on the boards of the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Smith College Museum of Art, and the Broad Room, as well as advisory boards for Brooklyn Public Library, Black Arts Future Fund, Indigo Arts Alliance, and WNET All Arts. A graduate of Smith College, NYU, and Coro Leadership NY, she is also a Sterling Network Fellow.

Christine Y. Kim, curator of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; with Rujeko Hockley, Arnhold Associate Curator, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. The Walker’s presentation is coordinated by Siri Engberg, senior curator and director, Visual Arts.

For more information about accessibility, or to request additional accommodations, call 612-375-7564 or email

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