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Julie Mehretu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1970, the first child of an Ethiopian college professor of geography and a Jewish American Montessori teacher. They fled the country in 1977 to escape political turmoil and moved to East Lansing, Michigan, for her father's teaching position in economic geography at Michigan State University.[2][3]: 215  A graduate of East Lansing High School, Mehretu received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and did a junior year abroad at Cheikh Anta Diop University (UCAD) in Dakar, Senegal, then attended the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island, where she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1997.[4][2] Mehretu shares her studio with her partner, artist Jessica Rankin. Her mother-in-law is author and poet Lily Brett.

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I think of my abstract mark-making as a type of sign lexicon, signifier, or language for characters that hold identity and have social agency. The characters in my maps plotted, journeyed, evolved, and built civilizations. I charted, analyzed, and mapped their experience and development: their cities, their suburbs, their conflicts, and their wars. The paintings occurred in an intangible no-place: a blank terrain, an abstracted map space. As I continued to work I needed a context for the marks, the characters. By combining many types of architectural plans and drawings I tried to create a metaphoric, tectonic view of structural history. I wanted to bring my drawing into time and place.

In 2000, Mehretu was awarded a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award. She was the recipient of the 2001 Penny McCall Award.[20] On September 20, 2005, she was named as one of the 2005 recipients of the MacArthur Fellowship, often referred to as the "genius grant."[21]

In 2007, while completing a residency at the American Academy in Berlin, Julie Mehretu received the 15th commission of the Deutsche Bank and Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. The body of work she created, Grey Area, was composed of six large-scale paintings, completed between 2007 and 2009 in a studio in Berlin.[22]

In 2013, Mehretu was awarded the Barnett and Annalee Newman Award and in 2015 Mehretu received the US Department of State Medal of Arts from Secretary of State John Kerry.[23]

In 2020, Time magazine included Mehretu in its list of the 100 most influential people.

Julie MehretU

A walking tour at The Whitney Museum in New York City. Shortly after the city opened back up after the pandemic.

April 2021

Tour Guide, by *Keita & The Galaxy of Style*

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