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Julie Mehretu
White Cube, Bermondsey
144 —152 Bermondsey Street , London SE1 3TQ , United Kingdom
May 1, 2013 - July 7, 2013

An Intricate Mess
by Fred Paginton

Liminal Squared is the latest exhibition to fill the walls of White Cube’s Bermondsey gallery, fittingly soloed by explorative artist (environmentally speaking) Julie Mehretu. In her first solo show with Jopling, Mehretu exposits a hefty series of geometric abstract paintings, that are at once intended to be grand in scale, intricate in detail, and bold in their depiction of contemporary urban chaos.

The series, entitled Mogamma, sets out to convey a frenetic energy of gatherings that originate from the revolutionary air of political protests from the Arab Spring of 2011. Set amidst the outlines of grand facades, and indecipherable locations, Mehretu uses complex layers, fixating dots and scattered splashes of colour in an attempt to evoke pertinent feelings of disposition and social anxiety. What is most inspiring about Mehretu’s work is the interplay between political and artistic expression. Her precise emphasis in using digital drawing to create sharp, stubborn architectural sketchesseen in the backgrounds of her blueprint-like paintingsare complemented by a freer, more relaxed technique of smudged compositions, creating a contrast with the authoritative outlines of buildings. Impressive viewing as singular works of fine detail: an intricate mess.

Julie MehretuMogamma: Part 1, 2012, 180 x 144 in. (457.2 x 365.8 cm), Ink and acrylic on canvas; Photo: Ben Westoby.


In the south gallery, we are introduced to the artist’s formulative sketches and paintings in what seek to explore, as Mehretu herself puts it, ‘The multifaceted layers of place, space, and time that impact the formation of personal and communal identity.’ Where some are more defined with outlines of utopian cityscapes, others (at this stage) seem unrelated and to some extent ineffectual, when trying to display a coherent development of separate and/or conjoined identities of the artists’ wider theme of revolution.

On reflection, I feel that Liminal Squared is better placed in mind, especially when tackling Mehretu’s chosen subject of social geographic disruption. From first impressions, one may struggle to formulate her concept that is detailed in such an abstract sense, and although White Cube’s chasmal surroundings complement Mehretu’s grand scaling work, the expression of social and political dissonance loses a sense of urgency, and overall, its collective identity, in the complexity of its abstraction.


Fred Paginton


(Image on top: Julie Mehretu, Installation view; Courtesy of the Artist and White Cube, Bermondsey / Photo: Ben Westoby.)

Posted by Fred Paginton on 6/19/13 | tags: abstract

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