In episode 60 of The Great Women Artists Podcast, Katy Hessel interviewsone of the greatest artists of our time, the inimitable JULIE MEHRETU !!!!
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Revolutionising abstract painting for the twenty-first century, filled with frenzied vortexes and orderly and disorderly lines, Mehretu is acclaimed for her all-encompassing, large-scale, gestural paintings built up through layers of acrylic paint, and overlaid with frenetic mark-making.
Referencing art history – from the Old Masters, dynamism of the Italian Futurists to the enveloping scale of Abstract Expressionism – and past civilizations while addressing the most immediate conditions of our contemporary moment, including migration, revolution, climate change, global capitalism, and technology, Mehretu’s points of departure are architecture, people and the city. In particular, the densely populated urban environments of the 21st Century.
Working on a colossal scale, with intricate details and pockets of information when witnessed up close, step back and Mehretu’s paintings enable you to survey a world from afar. Erupting with colour, line, energy and movement, they evoke histories both evolving and collapsing, much like the conflictingly progressive, yet backward, world we find ourselves in today.
Born in Ethiopia, and from an early age, raised in the United States, where she lives and works today, Mehretu studied at the Kalamazoo College, Michigan, followed by RISD. An artist-in-resident at the esteemed Studio Museum in Harlem in the early 2000s, Mehretu has since gone on to exhibit extensively around the world, from solo exhibitions at the Louisiana in Copenhagen to the Guggenheim in New York City, to numerously participating in Biennales all over the globe, from Venice to Sydney to Istanbul.
She is a recipient of the American Art Award from the Whitney Museum of American Art, the prestigious MacArthur Fellows Award, and has been awarded the US Department of State Medal of Arts Award.
But the reason why we are speaking today, is because Mehretu is currently the subject of a major touring retrospective of her work from the last 25 years, co-curated by esteemed curators Christine Y. Kim with Rujeko Hockley, which is currently on view at The Whitney, was previously at LACMA and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia, and will go on to the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. And unsurprisingly, has been met with astonishing reviews! Check out her Whitney show here: https://whitney.org/exhibitions/julie-mehretu
And WOW, is this one of the most enriching, enlightening conversations I have ever had. THANK YOU JULIE!!!
Migration Direction Map (Large), 1996
Untitled (Yellow with Ellipses), 1998
Renegrade Excavation, 2001
Stadia Series, 2004
Mogamma Seres, 2012
Conjured Parts (eye), Ferguson, 2016
Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
Sound editing by Winnie Simon
Artwork by @thisisaliceskinner
Music by Ben Wetherfield