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Marian Goodman Gallery Paris is delighted to announce an exhibition of works by Julie Mehretu. Following her acclaimed retrospective recently presented in four major U.S. museums, the show — the third by Mehretu at the Paris gallery — features a new series of medium-sized paintings and two large-scale prints.

This exhibition also marks the debut of an ongoing collaboration between Mehretu and poet Robin Coste Lewis. Here, art and poetry intersect, as an audio recording of a new poem composed by Lewis for Mehretu is transmitted in the gallery space; a subtle conversation ensues, culminating in an installation created by Lewis from her family’s private photographic archive.

For more than two decades, Julie Mehretu has been reinventing abstraction with a poetic and unique visual language layered with a variety of marks, gestures and meanings. Her impressive body of work, including paintings, drawings and prints, is inspired by a multitude of sources that have evolved over time; architectural elevations, ancient history, literary and musical references, and, in the last few years, addressing international subjects of concern such as migration, revolution, social justice, climate change and the impact and repercussions of the global pandemic experienced by all nations over the past two years.

Mehretu’s examinations of contemporaneous events are reinforced in her recent paintings, as photographs from accredited news sources of world events serve as both the point of departure on which compositions unfold as well as the foundation for formal experimentation. The selected imagery is first digitally modified and blurred, before being translated via airbrush onto canvas; the result is imperceptible yet conveys a subliminal feeling. Mehretu then combines various layers of ink and acrylic with the use of paint brush, airbrush, and screen print, creating intricate spaces of possibility. The nine paintings on view at the gallery are part of a suite of works entitled Among the Multitude. The iconic volatile black marks and shapes mingle with vibrant colors to constitute tight and dense compositions. Interacting with each other and in conversation, each of the new paintings operates like a short-story or myth with an enigmatic protagonist that comes in and out of focus, ungraspable but visceral.

As a painter, I am trying to negotiate all that is happening in the world through my work.

The show also includes two monumental prints created in a collaboration with Gemini GEL, the well-known printmaking workshop based in Los Angeles. Mehretu’s exploration in printmaking takes an essential part in her practice, enabling her to pursue formal research which inform her painted works, as well as experimenting with new technical processes. Each print in the show is composed of ten aquatint etchings printed on paper, individually framed and hung as a grid. Both works used the exact same etching plates but were inked in different colors, each panel received five layers from five separate plates – a technical achievement with a total of fifty etching plates employed to complete the entire project.

For the first time, Mehretu invites Robin Coste Lewis to participate in one of her exhibitions, by presenting an original poem and installation commissioned by Mehretu. The text written and recorded by Lewis infiltrates the stairwell going to the lower gallery and leads visitors down into the vaulted space. The collaboration between Mehretu and Lewis in the show is the culmination of a political and aesthetic friendship between the two which grew over time, and which meditates on the relationship between the history of time, mark-making, human migrations, desire and the abstract. Mehretu and Lewis met in the late 1990's when they were both graduate students, and regularly attended the same lectures and conferences that took place during the heady 90s of the study of post-colonial theory, queer studies, and critical race theory. From their first meeting, each recognized that their interests and obsessions engaged a shared conversation which continues until today, in this exhibition.

Intimacy, the installation by Lewis on display in the final space of the gallery, is a single-channel video composed of a selection of her family’s photographic archive, which Lewis discovered by chance in an old suitcase after her grandmother’s death. The sepia, tintypes, and black-and-white pictures subtly recount the history of her family who, along with millions of other African American families, fled the South as part of the Great Migration west. The video along with the accompanying poem by Lewis engages Mehretu’s own history of immigrations as well her aesthetic concerns.

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