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StarPedia - Julie Mehretu


Julie Mehretu - Ethiopia

Mehretu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1970, the first child of an Ethiopian college professor of geography and a Jewish American Montessori teacher. They fled the country in 1977 to escape political turmoil and moved to East Lansing, Michigan, for her father's teaching position in economic geography at Michigan State University.


Mehretu's canvases incorporate elements from technical drawings of various urban buildings and linear illustrations of urban efficiency, including city grids and weather charts. The pieces do not contain any formal, consistent sense of depth, instead of utilizing multiple points of view and perspective ratios to construct flattened re-imaginings of city life. Her drawings are similar to her paintings, with many layers forming complex, abstracted images of social interaction on a global scale. The relatively smaller-scale drawings are opportunities for exploration made during the time between paintings.

"I think of my abstract mark-making as a type of sign lexicon, signifier, or language for characters that hold identity and have social agency. The characters in my maps plotted, journeyed, evolved, and built civilizations. I charted, analyzed, and mapped their experience and development: their cities, their suburbs, their conflicts, and their wars. The paintings occurred in an intangible no-place: a blank terrain, an abstracted map space. As I continued to work I needed a context for the marks, the characters. By combining many types of architectural plans and drawings I tried to create a metaphoric, tectonic view of structural history. I wanted to bring my drawing into time and place."

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