Filmed in her Berlin studio, Julie Mehretu discusses the ups and downs of her daily studio practice. Mehretu is shown working on the painting Middle Grey (2007-2009), one work in a suite of seven paintings commissioned by the Deutsche Guggenheim as part of the exhibition Julie Mehretu: Grey Area, which travels to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York later this year (May 14 – October 6, 2010).
Mehretu’s paintings and drawings refer to elements of mapping and architecture, achieving a calligraphic complexity that resembles turbulent atmospheres and dense social networks. Architectural renderings and aerial views of urban grids enter the work as fragments, losing their real-world specificity and challenging narrow geographic and cultural readings. The paintings’ wax-like surfaces—built up over weeks and months in thin translucent layers—have a luminous warmth and spatial depth, with formal qualities of light and space made all the more complex by Mehretu’s delicate depictions of fire, explosions, and perspectives in both two and three dimensions. Her works engage the history of nonobjective art—from Constructivism to Futurism—posing contemporary questions about the relationship between utopian impulses and abstraction.