• Mehretu-new-lead

    Julie Mehretu: Installation, courtesy the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris and White Cube

Art

Artist Julie Mehretu explores how cities serve as backdrops for change

Posted by Rob Alderson,

There’s a strange kind of dance visitors to the Julie Mehretu show at London’s White Cube gallery take part in which is jolly fun to observe. At first they stand and take in the huge paintings, then move forward, faces inches from the canvases to examine the painstakingly layered detail, then back again, then forward ad infinitum.

It’s impossible not to join in. At her first solo show in London, the Ethiopian born, New York-based artist is exhibiting some extraordinary new pieces, with more sober and serious undertones than her previous work (which we featured last year).

Mogamma, A Painting in Four Parts was created around the time of the Arab Spring revolutions and is named after Al-Mogamma – a government building in Tahir Square, Cairo, that was at the heart of the Egyptian uprising – while “mogamma” is also the Arab word for “collective.”

“I don’t think of architectural language as just a metaphor about space, but about spaces of power, about ideas of power.”

Julie Mehretu

They feature intricate outlines of architecture from public squares the world over, overlaid with smudges, scribbles,marks of all shapes and sizes and the odd bright line of acrylic. “I think architecture reflects the machinations of politics, and that’s why I am interested in it as a metaphor for those institutions,” she says. “I don’t think of architectural language as just a metaphor about space, but about spaces of power, about ideas of power.”

It’s beguiling but confusing stuff; chaos over order, change over stasis, future over past, imagined over real. She plays similar games with Aether (Venice), the famous city’s architectural glories remixed into a tangled, complex web.

It might not be the most straightforward show to get your head around but it’s well worth the effort if you’re in London, plus you’ll certainly walk off your lunch while you’re there.

Julie Mehretu: Liminal Squared is at White Cube Bermondsey until July 7.

  • Julie-mehretu-mogamma-a-painting-in-four-parts-part-1-2012-(medium-res)-1

    Julie Mehretu: Mogamma, A Painting in Four Parts: Part 1 Courtesy the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris and White Cube

  • Julie-mehretu-mogamma-a-painting-in-four-parts-part-2-2012-(medium-res)

    Julie Mehretu: Mogamma, A Painting in Four Parts: Part 1 Courtesy the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris and White Cube

  • Julie-mehretu-mogamma-a-painting-in-four-parts-part-3-2012-(medium-res)

    Julie Mehretu: Mogamma, A Painting in Four Parts: Part 3 Courtesy the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris and White Cube

  • Julie-mehretu-mogamma-a-painting-in-four-parts-part-4-2012-(medium-res)

    Julie Mehretu: Mogamma, A Painting in Four Parts: Part 4 Courtesy the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris and White Cube

  • Julie-mehretu-invisible-line-(collective)-2010-2011-(medium-res)

    Julie Mehretu: Invisible Line © Julie Mehretu Photo by Ben Westoby, courtesy White Cube

  • Julie-mehretu-aether-(venice)-2011-(medium-res)

    Julie Mehretu: Aether (Venice) © Julie Mehretu Photo by Ben Westoby, courtesy White Cube

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Art View Archive

  1. Ellakru-painting-7home-int

    Latvia-born Ella Kruglyanskaya now lives and works in New York, depicting cartoon-like friends and “frienemies” out-and-about in large-scale oil paintings and murals. Ella’s work is packed with bawdy humour, exaggerated forms, exuberant mark-making and interactions. She describes her intention as “pictorial events… [that] aspire to an unspoken punch line” – the content, references and line-work all filtered through comedy.

  2. Anniedescarteaux-collage-7home-int

    Annie Descôteaux’s work is confident, engaging and straight-forwardly slapstick. The Montreal-based artist works with installation, drawing and collage and has seen her work exhibited and discussed at conferences on colour theory. In equally impressive outings, it’s also appeared in Bloomberg and Pica magazines, among other publications. Annie’s collage work is well-balanced with clean lines, sharp colours and discreet humour; each piece littered with raw steak, fried eggs and shuttlecocks.

  3. Oliviervrancken-untitled-1-inthome

    Olivier Vrancken is a graphic designer and artist based in Holland. Painting and drawing his way through commissions and personal work, he is inspired by everything from primitive art to the great lyricists that are Black Sabbath. Olivier has exhibited all over Europe, his Cubist aesthetic and visual references laden with nods to cut-outs, still life, architecture and the human form. There’s a great colour palette to his work and some nice titles like Bad Hair Day and Wanderlust. Olivier’s work reminds me of the prints that appeared all over the T-shirts of the 1980s, in a good way.

  4. Menutnutnut-drawing-4-int

    Me nut nut nut was one of Jason Murphy’s daughter’s first utterances, and is now the name for his drawings of awkward stories of fear and incompetence. Inspired by the physical comedy of The Young Ones and The Ren & Stimpy Show, Jason’s drawings rely on comic intuition and references to real-life moments, like dropping a potato on his cat.

  5. Seamus_murhpy_pj-harvey_-recording-in-progress_-2015.-an-artangel-commission.-_1_int

    While we wait to take our turn to become a sort of strangely sanctioned voyeur as PJ Harvey records her ninth album, thinking about what’s ahead feels peculiar. Essentially, we’re going to see PJ (Polly Jean) Harvey, her band, producers Flood and John Parish, a photographer and two engineers making an album in a Something & Son-designed box, formed of glass that allows visitors to see in, while the musicians can’t see out.

  6. Atelierbingo-list-int

    Up to the point when I opened Atelier Bingo’s new zine Wogoo Zoogi I’d never wondered what two aliens in heated conversation might look like. Having had a read I can now confirm that the answer is “they are speaking, singing very strangely, and they have a hair on their tongues." The newest bout of work from French illustration and surface design duo Adèle Favreau and Maxime Prou is a wonderful celebration of playful, dynamic, abstract art; blending shapes, colours and patterns in a glorious puddle of chaos thinly disguised as alien chat. In fact, it’s everything we’ve been led to expect from the pair, who we’ve dolloped praise on in the past.

  7. Faigahmed-carpets-list-2-int

    Faig Ahmed is an Azerbaijani artist doing remarkable things with carpets. He takes traditional Azerbaijani rugs – enormous, beautiful intricate creations – un-weaves them, and reconstructs them to create new patterns and shapes, subverting traditional usage of rugs as domestic objects to be walked all over, and rejuvenating them with optical illusions and techniques reminiscent of contemporary internet art. 

  8. Slavs_tatars-loveletters-home-int

    The work of Slavs & Tatars is awash with unlikely cultural references, balloons, archives and carpets. Identifying “the area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China” as the focus of their work, their projects are generous, engaging and genre-crossing. Starting as a reading group before shifting into making their own work, Slavs & Tatars have recently been working on a continuation of their Long Legged Linguistics project, a multi-faceted study of language as a source of emancipation. The somewhat secretive collective were kind enough to tell us more about this and their “bazaar” approach to making work.

  9. Davidbatchelor-october-13-int

    If you go down to the Whitechapel Gallery anytime between now and early April you’ll be sure to come across a huge breadth of work chronicling the adventures of the black square, from 1915 all the way up to the present day. It’s fairly monochromatic, as you might expect. Upstairs, however, things get drastically more colourful – especially once you come to David Batchelor’s specially “disrupted” issue of October, one of the most respected art journals out there, first published in 1976 and edited by esteemed writers Michel Foucault, Richard Foreman and Noël Burch.

  10. Alexdacorte-easternsport-1-int

    Perennial student artist Alex Da Corte has qualifications, residencies and awards coming up to his eyeballs having studied Film, Animation and Fine Arts at New York’s School of Visual Arts, Printmaking and Fine Arts at The University of the Arts, Philadelphia and then a cheeky MFA in Sculpture at Yale. Busy guy!

  11. Duane_hanson_-_karma3

    Karma Books have just published a catalogue of Duane Hanson’s post-humous exhibition Flea Market Lady. Shown at New York’s Gagosian Gallery, Duane’s flea market ladies are taken from real-life characters and cast in bronze. An incredible feat of observation and skill, his work captures the character of his models and creates a very real atmosphere of flea-ing. Karma have kindly let us publish an extract from the imaginary conversation Maurizio Cattelan has with the artist in the foreword to the book:

  12. Hdl5_copy

    Hubert de Lartigue paints photo-realistic portraits that “serve the beauty” of his models, and his muse. He considers “emotion and soul” the most important part of a painting and spoke to us about his working process, inspiration and the impact of his muse, Octavie.

  13. Main_10.00.34

    If I won the lottery I’d open a gallery, and when I opened my gallery I’d totally rip off everything that David Kordansky Gallery does. From the big stuff like the very well-curated, cool list of artists they represent, to the impeccable printed matter they produce, to the matter of their easily navigable and well designed website – these guys are celebrating people’s work in the best way possible.