Mehretu’s works are part painting, part drawing. Intricately rendered, her elaborate semi-abstractions recall cartography and architecture, urban planning and science fiction. With layers of mylar, velum, paper, ink, and paint, Mehretu arranges lines and symbols into complex systems. Her mechanized technique is counterbalanced with flowing, gestural form with a pleasing color palate. The exhibition includes paintings and drawings from 1998 to 2000. The selected works highlight Mehretu’s mastery of scale and line.
Mehretu’s subject matter centers on public spaces—government buildings, airports, highways, street grids. Socially charged, her work presents a visual record of a future environment. Although her abstractions appear to be plans of some sort, the artist keeps the narrative ambiguous. The viewer is left to question whether the paintings and drawings are documents of existing space or proposals for new sites. Her sprawling imagery hints at urban development, capitalism, and technology, inviting a critique of the impact of globalism on the individual.
Mehretu presents a non-linear arrangement of images and information with specific cultural and historical references floating through time and space. In this way, her work mirrors our fast-paced digital life and overwhelms the viewer with a dizzying array of choices and opportunities.