chapter
3 Pages

Julie Mehretu

Douglas Fogle wrote of her work, “By using elements extrapolated from recognizable references in

our built environment, the artist has created paintings that provocatively blur the line between both

Mehretu cites hip-hop “sampling” as one of her influences. Just as hip-hop music is

composed of parts of prerecorded songs to produce a “new” audio track,2 Mehretu takes samples

from maps, architectural plans, and art-historical references to create her own visual language,

a lexicon that integrates lines, arcs, dots, vectors, hatch marks, and dashes. Mehretu explains,

“My aim is to have a picture that appears one way from a distance-almost like looking at a

cosmology, city, or universe from afar-but then when you approach the work, the overall image

In Mehretu’s practice, architectural plans or blueprints are first applied to the canvas as

an under-drawing. The paintings are then layered in acrylic resin. Mehretu builds up surfaces

continually, drawing and painting overlapping lines, forms, and color, and collaging symbols onto

each successive surface, creating a deep and densely populated space.