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Past Exhibitions

Julie Mehretu

October 24, 2020–January 31, 2021

Julie Mehretu, co-organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Whitney Museum of American Art, is the artist’s first comprehensive survey exhibition featuring her meticulously crafted paintings, drawings, and prints. Including early work influenced by the notion of cities as sociopolitical constructs; complex paintings built up in layers of colors, lines, brushstrokes, and architectural renderings; and Mehretu’s recent predominantly abstract, gestural work, the exhibition reveals the evolution of her work and its proximity to abstraction over the past two decades.

Banner image credit: Julie Mehretu (American, born Ethiopia, 1970), Mogamma (A Painting in Four Parts): Part 2 (detail), 2012, ink and acrylic on canvas; Julie Mehretu (American, born Ethiopia, 1970), Hineni (E. 3:4) (detail), 2018, ink and acrylic on canvas.

Click on an image below to learn more.

“As I continue drawing, I find myself more and more interested in the idea that drawing can be an activist gesture. That drawing—as an informed, intuitive process, a process that is representative of individual agency and culture, a very personal process—offers something radical.” —Julie Mehretu

Julie Mehretu headshot.
Julie Mehretu. Photo: Teju Cole

Julie Mehretu (American, born Ethiopia, 1970) emigrated as a child to the United States from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and grew up in East Lansing, Michigan. Now based in Harlem, New York, she is best known for large-scale abstract paintings layered with a variety of mediums, marks, and meanings. These canvases and works on paper refer to the history of art, architecture, and past civilizations while addressing the most immediate conditions of our contemporary moment, including migration, revolution, climate change, global capitalism, and technology.

Mehretu begins a painting by drawing on the prepared canvas, not unlike the Old Master technique of starting off with a preparatory underdrawing. She then develops the works by incorporating various techniques such as printing, digital collage, erasure, and unconstrained gesture. She is inspired by a variety of sources, from cave paintings, cartography, and Chinese calligraphy to architectural renderings, graffiti, and photojournalism. Drawing on this vast archive, she explores how realities of the past and present can shape human consciousness. Her visual language represents, she says, how “history is made: one layer on top of another, erasing itself, consuming itself, inventing something else from the same thing.”

Mehretu’s work has been included in numerous exhibitions worldwide, including Documenta XIII (2012), the Whitney Biennial (2004), the Carnegie International (2004), and the Istanbul Biennial (2003). Among her many awards are the National Medal of Arts (2015), the Barnett and Annalee Newman Award (2013), the Berlin Prize (2007), and a MacArthur Fellowship (2005). This year Mehretu was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2020.


Organization and Support

This exhibition was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Major support is provided by the Ford Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

This exhibition is made possible by

Premier Exhibition Series Sponsor

Delta logo.

Exhibition Series Sponsor

Northside Hospital logo.

Premier Exhibition Series Supporters
The Antinori Foundation
Sarah and Jim Kennedy
Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot
wish Foundation logo.

Benefactor Exhibition Series Supporters
Anne Cox Chambers Foundation
Robin and Hilton Howell

Ambassador Exhibition Supporter
Rod and Kelly Westmoreland

Contributing Exhibition Series Supporters
Farideh and Al Azadi
The Ron and Lisa Brill Family Charitable Trust
Lucinda W. Bunnen
Marcia and John Donnell
W. Daniel Ebersole and Sarah Eby-Ebersole
Karen T. & Jeb L. Hughes, Corporate Environments
Mr. and Mrs. Baxter Jones
Joel Knox and Joan Marmo
Margot and Danny McCaul

Generous support is also provided by
Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund, Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Fay and Barrett Howell Exhibition Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, Isobel Anne Fraser–Nancy Fraser Parker Exhibition Endowment Fund, John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund, Katherine Murphy Riley Special Exhibition Endowment Fund, Margaretta Taylor Exhibition Fund, and the RJR Nabisco Exhibition Endowment Fund.