Julie Mehretu makes large-scale, gestural paintings that are built up through layers of acrylic paint on canvas overlaid with [abstract] mark-making using pencil, pen, ink and thick streams of paint. . . . Mehretu’s points of departure are architecture and the city, particularly the accelerated, compressed and densely populated urban environments of the 21st Century.
I think of my abstract mark-making as a type of sign lexicon, signifier, or language for characters that hold identity and have social agency. The characters in my maps plotted, journeyed, evolved, and built civilizations. I charted, analyzed, and mapped their experience and development: their cities, their suburbs, their conflicts, and their wars. The paintings occurred in an intangible no-place: a blank terrain, an abstracted map space. As I continued to work I needed a context for the marks, the characters. By combining many types of architectural plans and drawings I tried to create a metaphoric, tectonic view of structural history. I wanted to bring my drawing into time and place.
—Julie Mehretu, qtd in Lauri Firstenberg, “Painting Platform in NY,” Flash Art Vol. XXXV No. 227, November/December 2002, p. 70.
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