Julie Mehretu’s Politicized Landscapes- Elsie Campbell

This week, Art21 featured a video on Julie Mehretu’s Politicized Landscapes. Mehretu’s work consists of huge, wall murals, expanding multiple stories in height that depict abstract ‘landscapes.’ She describes her interest in landscapes through their historical significance, and therefore their politicized nature. She says, “the actual landscape is politicized through the events that take place on it.” The american landscape is one riddled with colonial historic and violence, crafting a narrative still relevant today. Mehretu takes photos of contemporary race riots that are, in her words, “embedded with DNA,” and superimposes historic landscape paintings on to them with her abstract interpretation. Mehretu’s work is highly politicized and provocative, it draws on the connection between spacial location and cultural weight, place and heritage, and the idealized version versus the real version of America in reference to racial justice.

I found Julie Mehretu’s work to be both visually appealing in its large size (which I am sure would be so much better in person) and abstract fluidity. But upon hearing her discuss her process, I was even more drawn into the psychological happening behind the scenes, so to say, of her work. I love the idea of combining historic paintings of the hudson river school and early American work (ex Thomas Cole) with modern day photos of the raw injustice that is present today. I like it because it urges the viewer to think about the way we often bury important realities so that we can focus on an idealized view of what is around us.

Link to video: https://art21.org/watch/extended-play/julie-mehretu-politicized-landscapes-short/

Artist bio: https://art21.org/artist/julie-mehretu/

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