Half Ethiopian, half American, abstract artist Julie Mehretu moved with her family to the US when she was only seven years old. Her immigrant status made her more sensitive to what makes a culture, an environment, more curious about how history, social norms, and the development of architecture through time infuse the physical space around us. Mehretu’s inspiration comes from varied sources and she approaches her art with curiosity and method, much like an anthropologist would examine events or places. To her, art is a means to explore who she is, to understand herself, her background and her identity.
With the 2018 Winter Olympics starting today in PyeongChang, I thought you would enjoy one of her earlier abstract paintings, Stadia I. The artwork expresses the exuberance and dizzying dynamism of a sports arena, all done through layers of basic shapes, lines and ink marks that indicate direction, movement, volume and noise. You can zoom in on it here.
In time, Mehretu’s style became more intricate and politicized. Her large scale paintings and murals are meant to offer a cinematic experience, to ensure that the viewer will “have to travel through” her maps and landscapes. I will now leave it to the artist herself to explain to you, in this short interview, how she approaches her art and the processes it requires to bring it to fruition.