The New Yorker this week profiled Julie Mehretu, in the fantastic article “Big Art, Big Money” by Calvin Tomkins. The article is focused around her recent $5 million commission by Goldman Sachs, and they touch on the role the institution played in the recent financial crisis. Julie Mehretu paints precisely defined abstract shapes in bright block colors, small shapes, large shapes, straight black lines or curves, layered by transparency over architectural line drawings. Her technique is mind-blowing. The Goldman Sachs mural is built in four layers. Each of the layers is different, some are highly realistic architectural drawings, some refer to the history of finance and capitalism, so they include maps, trade routes, population shifts, urban growth. Once each layer is drawn or painted, Julie has the entire canvas sprayed with a clear silica-and-acrylic solution that is then sanded smooth.
The amount of detail is phenomenal (check out this Vimeo video) but what is insane is the size of this mural: EIGHTY FEET LONG BY TWENTY-THREE FEET HIGH! Also, she did the entire thing in Berlin and had it shipped over to NY.
You can’t read the New Yorker article online unless you have a paid subscription, so if you have a chance, pick up a copy of the magazine, sit down with a cup of joe and prepare to get your mind blown. She’s amazing.