born 1970, Addis Ababa
lives in New York City
For FRONT 2022, Julie Mehretu offered a fresh perspective on the Cleveland Museum of Art’s encyclopedic collection. Her exhibition there, the first of its kind at the CMA, integrates her own paintings and works from the museum’s permanent collection that she has selected and curated. Spanning a range of cultures, histories, and mediums, the works she has chosen reflect images and ideas that inspire her own artistic practice and process.
One of the leading artists of her generation, Mehretu was born in Ethiopia in 1970, grew up in Michigan, and now lives in New York. Her art is abstract, but it is always firmly rooted in the recognizable world. Each work—whether a painting, a drawing, or a print—stems from her deep engagement with history, politics, and the social life unfolding outside her studio walls.
Mehretu’s early paintings explore architectural structures and systems of mapping. In her recent work, regard for the body—its forms and passages through the world—resides at the center. Throughout, an exquisite attention to rhythm, often in response to music, guides the artist’s gestures. Her work is further distinguished by a density created through overlapping layers of ideas, source materials, and varied modes of mark making. These characteristics of Mehretu’s art are amplified throughout the exhibition she has curated, inviting novel encounters with historic and contemporary art alike.
Julie Mehretu: Portals is the start of a long-term engagement between Mehretu and Cleveland. She is creating an outdoor mural downtown that will debut in 2023.