NEW YORK CITY, NY (Artsy)―Julie Mehretu was born in 1970 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to an Ethiopian college professor and an American teacher. In 1997, Julie Mehretu’s family left Ethiopia to the United States, residing in East Lansing, Michigan, where her father accepted .teaching position at Michigan State University.
Mehretu received her BA degree from Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and attended a junior year at Cheikh Anta Diop University (UCAD) in Dakar, Senegal (“study abroad” program). She then attended the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island, where she earned her MFA degree (1999).
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Julie Mehretu’s work is about layers: the physical layering of images, marks, and mediums, and the figurative layering of time, space, place, and history. Working in a large scale, Mehretu draws on the 21st-century city for inspiration, transferring its energy into her gestural sweeps of paint and built-up marks in ink and pencil—often transposed from projections—and condensing seemingly infinite urban narratives, architectural views, and street plans into single unified compositions. “The narratives come together to create this overall picture that you see from the distance,” she says. “As you come close to it […] the big picture completely shatters and there are these numerous small narratives happening.” Mehretu layers a range of influences and art historical references as well, from the dynamism espoused by the Futurists, to the scale and physicality of Abstract Expressionism, to the divergent markmaking of Albrecht Dürer, Eastern calligraphy, and graffiti. Mehretu was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2005.
- Ethio-American Julie Mehretu Awarded 2015 Medal of Arts by US State Department
- Julie Mehretu on Helping to Make the Powerful (and Angelina Jolie Pitt–Produced!) Ethiopian Film Difret
- Julie Mehretu, a MacArthur Foundation “Genius,” Executes a Monumental New Commission for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art