At moments when museum collections are trying to integrate more women and artists of color, Julie Mehretu represents a powerful symbol of progress, a rare example of a contemporary Black woman painter who has already entered the canon is.
At the same time, as the Black Lives Matter movement continues to fuel a national resonance, Mehru is on display at one of several arts institutions held accountable For a tangled history of white male boycott.
It is with this unusual situation – as an agent of change and a member of the establishment – that Mehretu is preparing to take over the entire sprawling fifth floor of Whitney with the most comprehensive survey of his career, which will be released to the public on March 25. Opens for .
“We are looking to rebuild this call,” Mehtaru said during a zoom interview from his Chelsea studio near the museum, noting that it did not see all-important work. “Only now, he mentions, are the artists who inspired him – such as Sam Gilliam, Coco Fusco, David Hammons and Daniel Joseph Martinez – who are ultimately receiving from institutions, galleries and collectors.
“There is an in-depth consideration of who you show and who comes to the museum and how you move it,” she said. “There is a lot that has to be challenged.”
The 50-year-old Mehetu did not emerge as a revolutionary. Instead he presents a more thoughtful approach – constantly investigating, investigating, wrestling. A typical Mehetu cross-referencing dialogue veers from the Tianmen Square massacre to the colonialism of Le Corbusier.
So, while the events of the past year have probably made Mehretu’s subject more resonant, the artist said she is immersed in those issues – rebellion, exodus and rebellion – all along.
“The reality of most people, if you are a person of color,” he said, is that racism has contributed to a huge wealth gap in this country, and if you study it, it is very clear that there There should be a real form of redress
That prevention includes what tells your story. Committed to greater diversity in museums around the country in which they display, rent and promote, Mehretu’s Whitney retrospective also represents an important step forward for two female curators of color.
Christine Y. Kim, curator of contemporary art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, jointly co-founded Rujeko Hawkley at Whitney and Presented it Last year (the show was forced to close six months earlier due to an outbreak of Kovid-19). The three women feel a sense of brotherhood, as they have a shared history through the Studio Museum in Harlem – Mehru was an artist in residence there; Hawkley was a curator assistant; And Kim had various curator positions.
“This powerful collaboration not only indicates the importance and importance of each of their flourishing practices,” said Thelma Golden, director of the Studio Museum, “but at the same time their foundational trajectory.”
Monumental in its scale and scope, Mehretu’s Whitney Show explores recurring themes such as capitalism, globalism, and displacement, drawing on layers of visual images, a lexicon of hieroglyphs and ancient city maps. In light of protests and epidemics, the exhibition – which traveled High museum of art In Atlanta and will end its tour Walker Art Center Next October in Minneapolis – seems particularly relevant.
“Julie’s work has an incredible sense of humanity, a place, a sense, a moment to think about invisible bodies, escapes, lost history, complex communication, protest and the congregation,” Kim said. “The absence of bodies but the presence of humanity at a standstill resonates in mysterious and profound ways in these paintings.”
Hawkley said that “there is more to me than I think we have accepted or understood.”
The multi-layered, multi-faceted nature of Mehretu’s work has always put her in trouble. His paintings have a lot going on – figs as well as abstraction; Sliver lines as well as colored fibers; A clear engagement with history as well as current events.
“Julie is the painter I turn to when I want to think how to disturb the line between abstraction and fig, between local and global concerns, between painter restraint and blissful abandon,” artist Glenn Ligon he said. “He is a history painter and an aprofuturist at the same time.”
Mehratu’s 2016 canvas, “Fused part (eye), Ferguson, For example, begins with a photo of an unarmed man with his hands facing police officers in riot gear during protests following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Morgan, in 2014.
The result is a fuchsia and green color that removes both confusion and confusion. As a high speed in a traffic accident is quickly reflected by an advertisement for a car or a fuzzy subway by graffiti, it requires viewers to create a sense of ugly detail beneath a beautiful whole.
The epidemic has informed the entire enterprise of the survey. Mehretu’s show could help re-establish a Whitney that now operates at limited capacity. During its run, through August 8, the world may reopen completely.
The lockdown changed Mehretu’s over-busy lifestyle, allowing him to slow down, to have dinner with his two boys each night – which he co-parents with his ex-wife, artist Jessica Rankin. To think more deeply about the father and his goals Deniston hillArtist Residency She formed at the Catskills in 2004 with artist Paul Pfeiffer and historian Lawrence Chua. The population remained there during the epidemic.
“I was not with that kind of uninterrupted time to stay in one place and join a ritual,” Mehritu said, adding that she enjoys living in the country through all four seasons and realizing that ” What happens when time passes. “
The virus disrupts Mehretu’s work, including a large diptych that will be in view in Whitney’s gallery overlooking the Hudson, a 12-foot canvas by a 15-foot canvas titled “Ghosthiman (after Rough)”, 2019-2021 . Only last fall, when she returned to her New York studio, was Mehretu able to resume work on the painting that followed the 2018 Chemnitz far-flung protest in Germany, anti-Brexit-immigration rallies and 19th-century painting “The Ruffz refers to “The Medusa,” by the French romantic painter Theodore Géricault.
He also stated that “the level of uncertainty caused by the epidemic and the heightened concern during those early months”, which informs work, including swings in the news cycle, “the basic risk of summer fluctuations and tropes of American exceptionalism” Is included. “
The Whitney Show, which has about 30 canvases as well as 40 works on paper, will include two new inks and acrylic “mind-wind field drawings”, featuring strong, kinetic lines and barely perceptible blur colors.
The viewer defines his early research and drawings from graduate school and the first painting in which he invented to create his signature mark, which the artist defines as “an insistence, persistence of existence”.
Born in Addis Ababa in 1970 to an Ethiopian father (a professor of economic geography) and an American mother (a Montessori teacher), Mehretu moved with his family to East Lansing, Michigan at the age of 7, to avoid political unrest in Ethiopia To escape.
He visited the Detroit Institute of the Arts, where American artist Morris Lewis was Colorful abstract stripMade a strong impression. “I tried to make that kind of painting,” Mehretu said.
At the Whitney Show, visitors will be able to see how Mehretu’s paintings evolved over time, grew, incorporated architectural plans and acquired a social and political dimension. The exhibition highlights the artist’s investigation of structural forms, such as stadiums; Iconography like the national flag; And sites of recent history such as the War on Terror or Hurricane Katrina.
As an explosion of interest in black figurative artists, Mehretu remains ready for abstraction. But she continues to influence artists in many disciplines. “There is a magnetism in the work that draws you into his universe,” painter Ann. Dash said. “It creates visual activity, posture and energy that makes the digital imagination somewhat digestible.”
Despite the possible complications of the moment – despite having a seat at the table right in front of the table – the Whitney show feels like a homecoming to Mehretu. As a graduate student at the Rhode Island School of Design in the late 1990s, Mehretu said, he was heavily influenced by the museum’s seminal exhibitions of black artists such as Frank Bowling and Jack Whiten, as well as its “black maleThe show, curated by Golden.
(His professional relationship with Whitney began with his inclusion in the 2004 biennial and continued with the 2017 group show, “An Unfinished History of the Protest: Selections from Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017.”)
“This is a place where a certain meaning of possibility opened up, and it has been such an important marker for me in the city,” Mehret said.
The irony is perhaps that the artists have arguably become part of the same system that some activists currently want to end. He has been awarded the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” (2005) and the US State Department Medal of Arts (2015).
Among its major commissions are “Mural” in 2009, commissioned by Goldman Sachs for its Battery Park headquarters, and A Commemorative Exploration of the American West In 2017 for the Atrium of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
And his work joined the art-market trophies category, which rose to a high for him at a $ 5.6 million auction.Black ground (deep light)Sotheby’s in Hong Kong in 2019.
Asked how she was challenging the system and becoming a part of it, Mehretu said that the question should be asked to every artist in the United States. “Racism is an American problem, not a problem of black people to solve it,” she said. “Everyone in this country should react to our history of white supremacist violence. That awareness reveals what I do. My work urges to be here. I’m here, we’re here, and we’re in the building. “