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Review: Julie Mehretu at The White Cube

Photo of exhibition taken by Paris Greene.

Julie Mehretu's recently released collection, now showing in London at Bermondsey’s White Cube, is a bold step for the artist; experimenting with an entirely new style, and exploring a sensitive subject matter, visiting is a fantastic opportunity to observe this innovation first hand and is a must for fans of Mehretu.

As you walk into the White Cube, you are greeted by an introduction to Mehretu's new works which outlines the foundations of this series. In an interview with Adrienne Edwards, available on the White Cube’s exhibitions page, Mehretu reflects on the “dramatic shift” of 2012 and entry of “the blur” into her work, before a renewed focus on the “prominence of gesture” and a reduction in “architectural lines.” This is a great reference point for the exhibition. When seeing it for themselves, followers of Mehretu will appreciate these steps to develop a new form for her work.

In many ways ‘hauntology’ can be seen as a renewed attempt to adapt and expand an already impressive body of work. In the place of “architectural” organisation, traditional to Mehretu, there is a heightened use of gradual shading techniques that are cast upon the canvases of most of these pieces. “The blur” and cloudlike-clusters make appearances in her ‘TRANSpaintings’ such as ‘recurrence’ in which they set the stage for the network of interwoven pathways of the lines.

“Erasure” is another topic raised in the Edwards interview. Influenced by the events of the US Capitol insurrection & Ukraine conflict, Mehretu uncovers ideas of “conflict, displacement… and power”; these struggles are iconographic throughout this collection. The silhouette-like technique of shadowing is prominent in several pieces in ‘The feminine in 9 parts’. They often utilise erasure through a gold spray producing a bold outline. This absence creates poignant and contemplative focal points within the geometry of the pieces.

This collection seemed to be well received by visitors; I overheard comparisons to Basquiat and Picasso. When speaking to an artist in the crowd I heard of how the pieces have “inspired” him (or even made him a little jealous), and he has visited them multiple times. Similarly, a couple tells me of the “dynamism” they see and the “richness” of strokes, commending the risk taken on by evolving a new style despite past commercial success.

Abstraction seems the most fitting of tactics to address ongoing issues of humanitarian crises and conflict faced by significant populations across the globe. At a time when, for many, keeping up with current affairs feels penitential, the cathartic experience of engaging with modern art can be a healthy exercise of reflection. This work is important as not only is ‘Hauntology’ an impressive exhibition of adaptive and creative expression, but it is also a genuine and heartfelt dedication to these concepts and those affected by them.

Julie Mehretu, They departed for their own country another way (a 9x9x9 hauntology) is on at The White Cube in Bermondsey until November 5th.


Edited by Samuel Blackburn


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