SeriesArt21: First Look (15 of 20)
Period & Style
This video is excerpted from the Season 5 episode Systems premiering on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at 10pm (ET) on PBS (check local listings). Systems features four artists—John Baldessari, Kimsooja, Allan McCollum, and Julie Mehretu—who invent new grammars and logics, finding comfort in some systems while rebelling against others in today’s supercharged, information-based society. Julie Mehretu was born in 1970 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; she lives and works in Berlin. 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.
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