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Julie Mehretu | Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Julie Mehretu, First Seal (R 6:1), 2020

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BORCH Gallery & Editions present Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Julie Mehretu as part of Gallery Weekend Berlin.

In the chromatic large-scale prints, Mehretu combines photogravure with classic intaglio printing techniques. The base layers are distorted news images from anti-immigration protests. The media images are blurred to allow the subliminal forms, color and light from the photos to merge with the complex compositions of agitated gestures and erasures which Mehretu executed in a variety of printing techniques.

The title of the series stems from Joan Didion’s 1967 essay Slouching Towards Bethlehem, which in turn references William B. Yeats’ poem The Second Coming (1919). Both authors describe a moment of reigning chaos, a moment in time when everything seems to culminate and fall apart; right before everything is halted, awaiting what’s to come. For Mehretu, this reflects the time during which she was working on the prints (2019/2020): A moment of severe uncertainty scarred by the rise of fascist authoritarianism, civil unrest, an upcoming US election with an uncertain result, and a global pandemic. Mehretu understands the prints as four states of the same event similar to the opening of the first four seals in The Book of Revelations and the moments of the arrival of the four horsemen in the single titles.

Julie Mehretu, Second Seal (R 6:3), 2020, detail
Julie Mehretu, Second Seal (R 6:3), 2020. Installation view at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, 2020. Photocredit: Tom Powel Imaging

Mehretu’s painting and drawing practice has long been complemented by printmaking projects. Her first collaboration with BORCH Editions, Epigraph, Damascus (2016), marked a point of departure both in terms of scale and technical complexity of her print projects. Slouching Towards Bethlehem testifies to the recent shift in Mehretu’s painterly practice reflecting her preoccupation with modified digital imagery as well as her evolved mark-making.

JULIE MEHRETU (*1970 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) lives and works in New York. She is recipient of the US State Department’s ‘National Medal of Arts’ (2015), ‘Berlin Prize’ from the American Academy in Berlin (2007), and the ‘MacArthur Fellowship’ (2005). Recent or upcoming solo exhibitions include The Walker Museum of Art (Minneapolis, 2021/22), The Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, 2021), The High Museum (Atlanta, 2020), and LACMA (Los Angeles, 2019/20). Mehretu participated in the Biennals of Venice, Istanbul, São Paolo, and Sydney as well as in Documenta XIII. Julie Mehretu has been collaborating with BORCH Gallery & Editions since 2016.

The exhibition is supported by

Stiftung Kunstfonds 2021
Neustart Kultur 2021

The exhibition is part of

Gallery Weekend Berlin 2021

Learn more about Julie Mehretu