#6 Julie Mehretu (b. 1970 -)
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 civilisations. 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
These words of the artist herself are perhaps the best description one can make of Mehretu’s works. An abstract analysis of globalization and the expanding structures of capitalism. Despite this, she is politically neutral, even going so far as to be commissioned by Goldman Sachs in 2007 to paint a mural for their building. Her opinion of the corporation; “I don’t see it as an evil institution, but as part of the larger system that we all participate in. We’re all a part of it.” And perhaps this is a part of the logic of her art. Clearly fascinated with the abstract landscape of global civilization, she envisions a certain democratic highway of mass interaction.
In her paintings, everything is ordered by a certain chaotic interconnectedness. Like the charts of collisions of subatomic particles, Mehretu maps out a macroscopic vision of the microscopic interactions that make up the mass of interactions called civilization. Perhaps it may be ironic to quote Marx in regards to such a politically-neutral artist, but not only are Mehretu’s paintings one of the highest expressions of Late capitalism and postmodern signification, they testify to Marx’s declaration that “Society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand.”
Her masterpiece to date, and one of the greatest paintings of the last decade is Congress, shown above.