Julie Mehretu was born in 1970 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In the late 1970s, the Ogaden War created political turmoil in Ethiopia, and in 1977 Mehretu moved to Michigan. After graduating high school, she received a Bachelor of Arts from Kalamazoo College and subsequently earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Rhode Island School of Design. In effect, her experiences across multiple continents and cultures have given her a unique view of social and political conditions: she examines the histories of art, architecture and past civilizations and intermingles them with current themes of migration, revolution, climate change, global capitalism and technology.
Recontextualizing notions of realities in past and present conciousness, Mehretu’s works span the scale from initimate drawings and prints to monumental canvases. Painting, drawing and complex printmaking techniques are used to create signature abstract forms that are thought-provoking maps of social and political sites and actions, elaborate meditations with shifting points of entry, new visual languages, mediated and figurative images. For Merhretu, it is important for her applied base drawings to remain exposed in her work, be it printmaking, drawings, digital collage or paintings. She views the drawn marks in her paintings as characters, each of which has their own story and is continuously changing. Together, these characters create a language with which she describes the world. Sources of inspirations come from cave paintings, cartography, mathematical designs, Asian calligraphy, graffiti, architetural renderings and news imagery. At times her work is so layered they take on the apperance of fossilized topographies, others are familiar depictions of city plans, architectural images and charts observed within her many layers of graphite and paint. Her use of multiple perspectives, however, makes for an alternative reality in which the features of modern cities are abstracted. Mehretu has been the subject of numerous exhibitions and she currently lives and works in New York City.