Artist Julie Mehretu has had a busy time in the last year and a half, coming out of a Whitney show that opened in March and another, “about the space of half an hour” at Marian Goodman Gallery in the fall. Her paintings often incorporate compressed re-imaginings of grids, charts, and technical drawings as seen from multiple simultaneous perspectives: abstract landscapes that capture the anxiety-producing high-speed carousel of global transformation and disruption.
Mehretu spent the early days of the lockdown, what she calls the “suspended time of the pandemic,” working intensely on her paintings. She told Observer that in her art and conversations with other artists she has been “thinking through the exposed precarity the pandemic showed us.” Her recent work has investigated these themes of vulnerability and reformation: a subtle departure from her pre-pandemic work, she describes her new paintings containing “tentative mark making,” and images that “play with ideas of precarity and effort to insist.”
She sees these themes reflected in the art world in our era of post-pandemic reconstruction. She told Observer, “A lot of young artists and a lot of thinkers and activists are coming together in really interesting ways and thinking about self-care and body trauma and collective care.” Young people, living in precarity, are insisting on a better world. At the same time, the art market is closing ranks, small galleries are shuttering, and mega galleries are picking up the slack and showing enormous numbers of artists. As usual, Mehretu’s work responds to these conditions and lives in the intersections between these contradictions.