There are some rather annoying things going on in the art-world. They have to do with the power of definition. With who is to say what is good and what is bad, what is great and what is minor, who is in and who is out. For a long time we have been told that painting is a dead genre, and for just as long it has been said that political art is outdated. But have a look at this – what are we to call the work of Julie Mehretu if not political painting?!
Julie Mehretu: BELOVED (CAIRO), 2013, ink & acrylic on canvas
In the middle of BELOVED (CAIRO), is an open space, the Tahrir Square – also known as “Martyr Square”, empty. It is difficult not to read this as a comment on the ongoing conflict in Egypt and the areas close to it. I find it very promising that contemporary art doesn’t turn away from the world, but actually brings it into the canvases, so that it becomes even more visible for those of us not daily in contact with these horrendous situations. Forcing us to see what we would rather forget.
Beloved (Cairo) has some of the same urgency and energy as Guernica. Yes, a bold statement, but I think it is a masterpiece.
Julie Mehretu (born 1970 in Ethiopia) is an artist, best known for her densely-layered semi-abstract paintings and prints. She studied at Kalamazoo College in Michigan (BA, 1992) and at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal (1990–91). She received an MFA in painting and printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1997. She lives and works in NY.