Julie Mehretu (Ethiopian, b. 1970)
12-panel aquatint with spit-bite (from 48 plates)
87 x 180 inches, edition of 24
Gund Gallery Collection; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Graham Gund ’63, 2020.4.12
The lines of Julie Mehretu’s Auguries tumultuously surge and intersect throughout the composition in a spontaneous manner that is characteristic of Mehretu’s cataclysmic etchings, with the interaction of delicate markings and bolder strokes converging into a dynamic visual narrative. By working large-scale, she immerses the viewer in a composition that echoes a particular topography within her subconscious: the mountainous landscapes of Northeast Africa. One may associate the solidity and permanence of certain lines with architectural forms, and the faint, gestural strokes with natural landscape. These evocative qualities of expressive line call to mind earlier iterations of abstract expressionism by using abstract form to access human emotions, memories, and experiences of places, spaces, and the passage of time.
Beneath the layering of marks is evidence of erasure – “ghost images” that evoke destruction and reconstruction in physical spaces. Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Mehretu draws from the subliminal impact of her family’s immigration to Michigan in 1977, and from her current experience living in New York. The deluge of geometric lines and organic curves reveal Mehretu’s recollection of the chaotic political history of her country of birth. Furthermore, we can interpret the elusive structure of the work as reflective of the current proliferation of modern industry and the unmappable future of global space as a result of ever-expanding communication networks. By contrasting the topographies in which she now lives to those of her past, Mehretu represents the contemporary experience of globalization as a dynamic accumulation of events and constructed spaces that are ignited in the present moment.
-Rebekah Utian, ‘22