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The press on Julie Mehretu’s Grey Area


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"Show me the city"
The press on Julie Mehretu's Grey Area

Julie Mehretu's work focuses on urgent themes such as migration and the rapid changes the world's cities are currently undergoing. Mehretu has created the commissioned work "Grey Area" for the Deutsche Guggenheim, a seven-part painting series that investigates urban architecture, war, destruction, and not least her own personal impressions of Berlin. The press has reacted enthusiastically to Mehretu's work, which is multi-layered in the truest sense of the word.

To Christina Tilmann of Tagesspiegel, "Mehretu's magical urban images" resemble a "refined game of memory and extinguishment, of reconstruction and alienation." She underscores the work's reference to Berlin, the location where the works were made: "It's a fitting art for a city that has continually redefined and destroyed itself, become united and separated, built and demolished (…) She couldn't have found a better time or chosen a better place." Of a similar opinion is Ingeborg Ruthe of the Berliner Zeitung: Mehretu's "enigmatic paintings" are "legible, like poetic city maps. Cartographic poetry that tells of continuous building and destruction, planning and rejection. (…) This painting has everything to do with Berlin; from Mehretu's point of view, the city unites like no other the utopias and catastrophes (…) of the 20th century." Style Mag agrees: "The grey zone is the vague state of transition, of the transformation Berlin still finds itself in. Mehretu does not, however, illustrate this indeterminacy, but reflects it." Barbara Hein of ART quotes the artist: "These multiple historical facets concentrated in one place have enriched my work in an incredible way." In this light, the Guggenheim show marks a brilliant departure for Mehretu, who has now ended her Berlin sojourn to return to New York.

According to Barbara Wiegand of Deutschlandradio Kultur, "in her fascinatingly complex portraits of metropolises," the artist "dives deeply into urban structures." Her "many-layeredness and multiple meanings are what make Julie Mehretu's works so worth seeing." They show what a "city's fascination consists of: a turbulent dynamism, a threatening tempo, generous structures, and a confusing lack of overview." For art-in-berlin, Grey Area visualizes urban realities. In the process, Mehretu combines a "collective feeling of city life" with "very personal perceptions." "The layers in her acrylic and ink paintings, sealed in artificial resin, harbor the artist's own experience of migration as well as social turbulence, and unite these in an energetic game of color and form." Tom Mustroph of Neues Deutschland writes of an "impressive exhibition. Mehretu's huge canvases unleash a strong effect in the gallery's high and generous space." They reveal themselves to be "condensed historical works." From her research efforts, "Mehretu distills abstract shapes which she then transfers to the canvas in delicate lines. Subsequently added layers can be interpreted as a metaphorical representation of usage and destruction, decay and transformation. In the process, each new layer covers the one beneath it, while at the same time the underlying layers break through to the surface. This is a visual dialectic that invites the viewer to look endlessly." For Brian Dillon of the Guardian it's the "painting titled Middle Grey that best elaborates her purely visual ambition."(…) "An immense variety of lines, dots, lozenges, half-figurative hints and starkly abstract shapes radiate from the mysterious centre." For him Mehretu's new tendency to erase portions of the painting seems "melancholy at first." "But what they leave behind, typically, is a pale patch of grey: a void waiting to be refilled – and grey, as these paintings also prove, is the colour of potential, the colour of hope." To Elke Buhr of Monopol, Grey Area is all about the "principle of the city." "If it is even possible to take the complexity people so quickly call globalization and translate it into an image, then Julie Mehretu is well on her way towards achieving this." (…) "One can get dizzy trying to disentangle a Mehretu painting. She does not simplify, but leaves the world as difficult as it is—and creates beauty out of complexity."

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