Julie Mehretu

Ethiopia 1970

Abstract Art, Painting, Prints

Julie Mehretu
Julie Mehretu
May 31, 2016
Andreja Velimirović is a passionate content writer with a knack for art and old movies. Majoring in art history, he is an expert on avant-garde modern movements and medieval church fresco decorations. Feel free to contact him via his Linkedin profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreja-velimirovi%C4%87-74068a68/

Born in Ethiopia, but spending most of her career in The United States where she settled as a kid, the artist Julie Mehretu is famous for her printmaking and painting with a strong note of abstraction. She is responsible for large scale prints, drawings and paintings that are based on heavy layering in order to create images from patterns and architectural photographs – although the end result does not give away what Mehretu used to start creating. Literally hundreds of thin and transparent layers of paint and paper cover the canvas of each painting, blending with each other and collectively creating an amazing effect.

Julie Mehretu - Dispersion, 2002 - gallery untitled home
Julie Mehretu – Dispersion, 2002

Mehretu’s Layers of Paint and Paper

Julie Mehretu was born during the year of 1970, in the town Addis Ababa, a capital city of Ethiopia. When little Julie was about seven years of age, her family decided it was time to move on and so they left for the West, settling in the state of Michigan, United States. Mehretu never forgot her ethnical roots, but her childhood was typically American from that point on. She was an excellent student and that provided her with numerous opportunities to expand her education – she studied at the University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar for starters, later applying in the Kalamazoo College where she earned a BA in Arts. Ultimately, Julie earned an MFA at the Rhode School of Art and Design during the year of 1997. These vast educational experiences helped Mehretu to build an impressive foundation for her future as an artist. Since she graduated in the year of 1997, Mehretu stayed in New York City and opened up a studio there, successfully starting what will soon become an excellent painter’s career. She started working with architectural renderings and aerial views of urban grids, combining hundreds of them until a point the starting material becomes unrecognisable – these fragments are stripped from their real-world specificity and challenging narrow geographic and cultural readings, becoming a part of something unique and new. After she finishes up, the pieces sometimes take up to weeks to dry off. Building a reputation from the grounds up was a challenge and not an easy one at that, especially when you consider the radical method that Julie was trying to establish. After being a part of numerous exhibitions of the group character, Mehretu’s first major solo exhibition, titled as Grey Area, took place at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2010.

Julie Mehretu’s work is created by using fragments of architectural renderings and aerial views of urban grids

Julie Mehretu - Stadia II Mehretu, 2004 - gallery untitled home
Julie Mehretu – Stadia II Mehretu, 2004

A Unique Method and her Exhibitions

Many art critics have often linked Mehretu’s work with some early 20th century movements, claiming that this artist found much influence in the paintings of numerous avant-garde ideas. Julie has been connected to everything between Futurism and Constructivism, which is all basically true since her art heavily relies upon abstraction and expression – both of which were in the development process during the early years of the 20th century. Putting aside many attempts to figure out what influenced Julie the most, the safest method is to listen Mehretu herself who admitted to learning a lot by viewing the paintings of Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman. All of her works – regardless of format, size or medium – involve symbolism Mehretu draws from street art, city charts and comic books. Colourful explosions and sharp or arching lines are ever present in her art, fueling her her body of work from the inside. The formal qualities of light and space found in her pieces are made all the more complex by Mehretu’s delicate depictions of fire, explosions and perspectives – in both two and three dimensions. Besides the aforementioned studio in The Big Apple, it should be noted that Mehretu also owns both a residence and a studio in the city of Berlin, often working and creating in the heart of German’s capital. Mehretu’s drawings, paintings and prints have been included in numerous exhibitions all over the world, with the arguable highlight being the 2002’s Drawing Now: Eight Propositions, placed inside the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The Palazzo Grassi in Venice also hosted her work for their Praise Of Doubtexhibition in 2011. Among Mehretu’s awards are the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin(2007), a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Award (2005) and the American Art Award from the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2005). It should be noted that Mehretu also dabbles in the medium of street art – one of the artist’s most widely acknowledged urban works is the 80-foot-wide mural located in Goldman Sachs tower entitled simply as Mural.

Mehretu has a masterful control of light, forms and space, blending all of that into fascinating abstract compositions

Julie Mehretu - Black City, 2007 - gallery untitled home
Julie Mehretu – Black City, 2007

Fascination with Abstraction

Mehretu uses the 21st-century city as a building block, transferring its energy into her gestural sweeps of paint and built-up marks in ink and pencil—often transposed from projections. She contracts seemingly infinite urban narratives, architectural views and street plans into single unified compositions. It’s fascinating how much control Mehretu is able to hold on to, especially when you consider the wild nature of the abstraction and the fact Julie uses an incredible number of layers in her work. Exciting and in full control, Julie Mehretu is undoubtedly one of the most impressive abstract artists out there.

The artist is represented by White Cube Bermondsey and White Cube Mason’s Yard, both galleries in London, United Kingdom.

Julie Mehretu lives and works in New York and Berlin, Germany.

Featured Image: Julie Mehretu – Photo of the artist – Image via ezibota.com
All images courtesy of Julie Mehretu

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group 
2016Julie Mehretu / Jessica Rankin Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens (MDD), DeurleGroup
2016El iris de Lucy. Artistas africanas contemporáneas Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (MUSAC), LéonGroup
2016IlluminationLouisiana Museum of Modern Art, HumlebækGroup
2016Come as You Are: Art of the 1990s Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TXGroup
2016Architecture of Life Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA), Berkeley, CAGroup
2016Revealed Terrain: The Semantics Of LandscapeThe Center for Book Arts , New York City, NYGroup
2015Julie Mehretu - Paintings and Works on Paper John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CASolo
2015From Above Blain|Di Donna, New York City, NYGroup
2015Works from the Astrup Fearnley CollectionAstrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, OsloGroup
2015Liberated Subjects: Present TenseFoundation de 11 Lijnen, OudenburgGroup
2014Julie Mehretu - Half A ShadowGalerie Carlier | Gebauer, BerlinSolo
2014Julie Mehretu - The Mathematics of Droves  White Cube - São Paulo, São PauloSolo
2014Another Look at DetroitMarlborough Chelsea, New York City, NYGroup
2014Another Look at Detroit: Parts 1 and 2Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2014Mind the MapGalleri F15, MossGroup
2014Love Story - The Anne & Wolfgang Titze CollectionBelvedere, ViennaGroup
2014Love Story – Sammlung Anne & Wolfgang Titze21er Haus, ViennaGroup
2014Dak'Art 2014 - 11ème Biennale de l’Art Africain ContemporainDak'Art Biennale de l’art africain contemporain, DakarGroup
2014Four Decades  John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2014Die Göttliche Komödie. Himmel, Hölle, Fegefeuer aus Sicht afrikanischer GegenwartskünstlerMuseum für Moderne Kunst (MMK), Frankfurt/MainGroup
2014The International Biennial of Contemporary Art of Cartagena de IndiasThe International Biennial of Contemporary Art of Cartagena de Indias, Cartagena de IndiasGroup
20141st International Biennial of Contemporary Art of Cartagena de IndiasInternational Biennial of Contemporary Art of Cartagena de Indias, Cartagena de IndiasGroup
2013Julie Mehretu - Liminal Squared  Marian Goodman Gallery, New York City, NYSolo
2013Julie Mehretu - Liminal Squared  White Cube - Bermondsey Street, LondonSolo
2013Julie MehretuGalerie Marian Goodman, ParisSolo
2013Flag’S 5Th Anniversary Group ExhibitionFLAG Art Foundation, New York City, NYGroup
2013Revelations: Examining DemocracyEli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, East LansingGroup
20135th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary ArtBolshe Sveta / More Light - Manege Central Exhibition Hall , MoscowGroup
2013Yes, No, MaybeThe National Gallery of Art, Washington, DCGroup
2013Surface TensionSenior & Shopmaker Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2013Collection Platform 4: Emotion and TechnologyPinchuk Art Centre, KievGroup
2013The Gesture and the SignWhite Cube - São Paulo, São PauloGroup
2013The Temptation of the DiagramAndrea Rosen Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2013Brothers and SistersThe Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City, NYGroup
2013Turbulences IIVilla Empain, Boghossian Foundation, BrusselsGroup
2012Julie MehretuThe Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Poughkeepsie, NYSolo
2012Group Exhibition Senior & Shopmaker Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2012Tracing the Century: Drawing as a Catalyst for ChangeTate Liverpool, LiverpoolGroup
2012On Paper: From Baselitz To Warhol KM fine Arts, Chicago, IL Group
2012Documenta (13) Documenta, KasselGroup
2012PotholeSalon 94 Bowery, New York City, NYGroup
2012The Painting Factory: Abstraction after WarholMOCA Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2012Print/OutMoMA, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NYGroup
2011Excavations: The Prints of Julie MehretuDavison Art Center, MiddletownSolo
2011MultiplicitySmithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DCGroup
2011The Bearden ProjectThe Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City, NYGroup
2011Seeing/KnowingThe Gund Gallery at Kenyon College, Gambier, OHGroup
2011Highpoint Editions – Decade OneHighpoint Center for Printmaking, Minneapolis, MNGroup
2011Highpoint Editions—Decade OneThe Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MNGroup
2011Shift And FlowDorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs (DGCP), New York City, NYGroup
2011A View from AboveJohn Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2011This And ThatBill Hodges Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2011Elogio del dubbioPalazzo Grassi, Francois Pinault Foundation, VeniceGroup
2011In Praise of Doubt - Punta della DoganaFrancois Pinault Foundation, VeniceGroup
2011Collection Platform 1: CirculationPinchukArtCentre, KievGroup
2011Three ArtistsJohn Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2010Julie MehretuCornell council for the arts. New York City, NYSolo
2010Excavations: The Prints of Julie Mehretu - Herbert FJohnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, NYSolo
2010Julie Mehretu: Grey AreaSolomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, NYSolo
2010Painting and SculptureLehmann Maupin, New York City, NYGroup
2010Picasso to Julie MehretuBritish Museum, LondonGroup
2010ImmaterialBallroom Marfa, Marfa, TXGroup
2010Keeping it Real: An Exhibition in 4 Acts: Act 2: Subversive AbstractionWhitechapel Art Gallery, LondonGroup
2010New Works: Prints, Drawings, Collages MFA - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, MAGroup
2010Kupferstichkabinett: Between Thought and Action White Cube - Hoxton Square, LondonGroup
2010The Facebook ShowMuseum of New Art - MONA, Pontiac, MIGroup
2010Hecate´s LabSenior & Shopmaker Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2010Wall to WallDaniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2010With or Without YouArt in Harlem, 2000 - 2006 - - Triple Candie, New York City, NY (closed, 2010)Group
2009Julie Mehretu: Grey AreaDeutsche Guggenheim, Berlin (closed, 2013)Solo
2009Excavations: The Prints of Julie MehretuHighpoint Center for Printmaking, Minneapolis, MNSolo
2009Automatic Cities: The Architectural Imaginary in Contemporary Art Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego - MCASD La Jolla, La Jolla, CAGroup
2009The Passionate Pursuit: Gifts and Promised Works from Donna and Cargill MacMillan, Jr.Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CAGroup
2009Signs of the Apocalypse/RaptureHyde Park Art Center, Chicago, ILGroup
2009Visiones de ConfinIVAM - Institut Valencià d'Art Modern, ValenciaGroup
2009Der Schmerz sitzt tiefOpelvillen, RüsselsheimGroup
2009Saints and SinnersThe Rose Art Museum, Waltham, MAGroup
2008Julie Mehretu: City SitingsNorth Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NCSolo
2008Julie Mehretu: City SitingsWilliams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MASolo
2008Julie Mehretu — New DrawingsKresge Art Museum, Lansing, MISolo
2008Las Líneas de la manoMuseo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo - MUAC, Mexico CityGroup
2008INPUT - Colecção Sindika DokoloMuseu Nacional de História Natural, LuandaGroup
2008Learning By Doing: 25 Years Of The Core Program At The Mfah (Ii)MFAH - Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, TXGroup
2008Prospect.1 New OrleansProspect New Orleans, New Orleans, LAGroup
2008Under the InfluenceArt and Culture Center of Hollywood, Hollywood, CAGroup
2008Tomorrow's MastersBill Hodges Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2008Drawn to DetailDeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MAGroup
2008Disguise: The art of attracting and deflecting attentionStevenson, Cape TownGroup
2008New Prints 2008/SpringInternational Print Center New York, New York City, NYGroup
2008I Bought the Brooklyn BridgeKupferstichkabinett, BerlinGroup
2007Julie Mehretu: City SitingsThe Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MISolo
2007Julie Mehretu - Reflexive DrawingsSimon Fraser University Art Gallery, Burnaby, BCSolo
2007Julie MehretuLouisiana Museum of Modern Art, HumlebækSolo
2007Julie MehretuKunstverein Hannover, HannoverSolo
2007Recent Acquisitions : From the Grunwald Center for the Graphic ArtsUCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2007Postcards from the Edge / Benefit for Visual AIDSJames Cohan Gallery - New York, New York City, NYGroup
2007Multiplex: Directions in Art, 1970 to NowMoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NYGroup
2007Tapping Currents: Contemporary African Art and the DiasporaThe Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MOGroup
2007New Directions in American DrawingKnoxville Museum of Art (KMA), Knoxville, TNGroup
2007Existencias - MusacMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, LéonGroup
2007LinesTexas Gallery, Houston, TXGroup
2007Wittgenstein in New YorkKunstmuseum Bayreuth, BayreuthGroup
2007New Directions in American DrawingTelfair Museum of Art, Savannah, GAGroup
2007Africa Remix - Contemporary art of a continentJohannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), JohannesburgGroup
2007Comic Abstraction - Image-Breaking, Image-MakingMoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NYGroup
2007New Directions in American DrawingThe Columbus Museum, Columbus, GAGroup
2006 Julie Mehretu - MusacMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, LéonSolo
2006Super VisionICA - Institute of Contemporary ArtBoston, Boston, MAGroup
2006Distant Relatives/Relative DistanceStandard Bank Gallery, JohannesburgGroup
20062° Bienal Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo de SevillaBIACS - Fundación Bienal Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo de Sevilla, SevillaGroup
2006Africa RemixModerna Museet, StockholmGroup
2006Belief and DoubtAspen Art Museum, Aspen, COGroup
2006The Grand PromenadeNational Museum of Contemporary Art - EMST, AthensGroup
2006ArchipeintureCamden Arts Centre, LondonGroup
2006Motion On PaperBen Brown Fine Arts, LondonGroup
2006Freeing The LineMarian Goodman Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2006Remote Viewing. Invented Worlds in Recent Painting and DrawingSaint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, MOGroup
2006Marks of Intention. Abstract Art on Paper 1945-2005The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MNGroup
200615th Biennale of Sydney 2006Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, NSWGroup
2006Distant Relatives/Relative DistanceStevenson, Cape TownGroup
2006Africa Remix - Contemporary Art of a ContinentMori Art Museum, TokyoGroup
2006ArchipeintureFRAC - Ile-de-France Le Plateau, ParisGroup
2006When Artists Say WeArtists Space, New York City, NYGroup
2005currents 95: Julie MehretuSaint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, MOSolo
2005Julie MehretuThe Project, New York City, NY (closed)Solo
2005SwarmThe Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, PAGroup
2005Mapping SpaceMAM - Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL (closed, 2013)Group
2005On LineLouisiana Museum of Modern Art, HumlebækGroup
2005New Prints 2005/AutumnInternational Print Center New York, New York City, NYGroup
2005Baroque and Neobaroque / The Hell of the BeautifullDA2 - Domus Artium 2002, SalamancaGroup
2005Wittgenstein in New YorkKupferstichkabinett, BerlinGroup
2005Remote Viewing - Invented Worlds in Recent Painting and DrawingWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NYGroup
2005African Remixl'art contemporain d'un continent - Centre Pompidou, Musée National d´Art Moderne, ParisGroup
2005PERFECTING SUPERSTATEOkno Gallery, ChelyabinskGroup
2005Fünfundzwanzig Jahre Sammlung Deutsche BankDeutsche Guggenheim, Berlin (closed, 2013)Group
2005Collection in ContextThe Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City, NYGroup
2005Recent Acquisitions - From the Grunwald CenterUCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2005MythologiesWalker Art Center, Minneapolis, MNGroup
2005FirewallWürttembergischer Kunstverein, StuttgartGroup
2005Desenhos A-ZPorta 33, FunchalGroup
2005Africa Remix – Contemporary Art of a ContinentHayward Gallery, LondonGroup
2005New Prints 2005/Winter International Print Center New York, New York City, NYGroup
2005LandingsSusan Inglett Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2004Julie MehretuRoy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, Los Angeles, CASolo
2004Julie Mehretu - Matrix 211Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive BAM/PFA, Berkeley, CASolo
2004Julie Mehretu: Drawing Into PaintingAlbright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NYSolo
2004 Julie MehretuGalerie Carlier | Gebauer, BerlinSolo
2004The Print ShowExit Art, New York City, NY (closed, 2012)Group
2004four color pen showLocust Projects, Miami, FLGroup
200454th Carnegie InternationalCarnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburg, PAGroup
200426° Bienal de São PauloBienal de Sao Paulo, São PauloGroup
2004Afrika Remix - Zeitgenössische Kunst eines KontinentsMuseum Kunstpalast, DusseldorfGroup
2004Back To PaintC & M Arts, New York City, NYGroup
2004Bck to PaintL&M Arts, New York, New York City, NYGroup
2004Between Art and Life: The Contemporary Painting and Sculpture CollectionSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art - SFMOMA, San Francisco, CAGroup
2004FirewallKunsthalle Münster, MünsterGroup
20042004 Whitney Biennial ExhibitionWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NYGroup
2004Social Strategies: Redefining Social RealismSchick Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NYGroup
2004OutlookBenaki Museum, AthensGroup
20048th International İstanbul Biennial 2003International Istanbul Biennial, IstanbulGroup
2004Hands on, Hands downThe Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City, NYGroup
2004Prague Biennale 1Prague Biennale, PragueGroup
2004Splat Boom Pow! The Influence of Comics in Contemporary ArtContemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, TXGroup
2004Social Strategies - Redefining social realismUniversity Galleries at Illinois State University, Normal, IlGroup
2004GNS (Global Navigation System)Palais de Tokyo, ParisGroup
2004Ethiopian Passages - Dialogues in the DiasporaNational Museum of African Art, Washington, DCGroup
2004The ModernsCastello di Rivoli Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, TurinGroup
2004MetaScapeThe Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OHGroup
2003Julie Mehretu - Drawing into PaintingThe Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art (PBICA), Lake Worth, FL (closed)Solo
2003Julie Mehretu - Drawing into paintingWalker Art Center, Minneapolis, MNSolo
2002Out of SiteHenry Art Gallery, Seattle, WAGroup
2002Stalder – Solakov-MehretuKunstmuseum Thun, ThunGroup
2002Busan Biennale 2002The Busan Biennale, BusanGroup
2002The 8th Baltic Triennial of International Art - Centre of AttractionThe Baltic Triennial of International Art, VilniusGroup
2002WallowThe Project, New York City, NY (closed)Group
2002Out of Site: Fictional Architectural SpacesNew Museum of Contemporary Art, New York City, NYGroup
2002Terra IncognitaContemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Saint Louis, MOGroup
2002Urgent paintingMusée d´Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris - MAM/ARC, ParisGroup
2001Julie MehretuThe Project, New York City, NY (closed)Solo
2001Julie MehretuArtpace, San Antonio, TXSolo
2001Third Annual Altoids Curiously Strong CollectionLACE - Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2001FreestyleThe Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City, NYGroup
2001Painting at the Edge of the WorldWalker Art Center, Minneapolis, MNGroup
2001Fresh - The Altoids Curiously Strong Collection 1998-2000New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York City, NYGroup
2000Selections Fall 2000The Drawing Center, New York City, NYGroup
2000Glenn Brown, Julie Mehretu, Peter RostovskyThe Project, New York City, NY (closed)Group
2000Greater New York: New Art in New York NowMoMA PS1, New York City, NYGroup
2000Architecture And MemoryCRG Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2000Architecture & MemoryGreenberg Van Doren Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2000Texas DrawsContemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, TXGroup
2000The Stroke: An Overview of Contemporary PaintingExit Art, New York City, NY (closed, 2012)Group