In the new paintings on view, created over the past year, there is evidence of an evolved vocabulary of abstraction. Bold and spirited mark-making merges with an ardent gestural cadence to introduce works at once epic and intimate. Steeped with references from classical mythology and Egyptology, to graffiti, abstraction, poetry and politics, Mehretu’s new paintings capture a gestural force unseen in her work before. Oscillating in viewpoint through their multiple layers of both valiant and minute marks, these paintings insinuate something of a survey of the annals and multiplicities of history, across both politics and art.
Drawing on her work of recent years, Mehretu continues the development of the grisaille, expanding it in these works on view. A new palette of greys converge and contrast amid zones of vibrant chromatic density, which project and recede from any of a latent matrix, a template, or a memory of place and event, such as the blurred and distorted photographic slides imprinted in the mind’s eye. Passages of light seem to indicate moments of elevated urgency. From these vestiges, a free and unconstrained empirical mark-making ensues. Built up in strata of drawing, ink, and paint, the previous geometries and psychogeographies of time and space give way to open intervals of refuge and release.
The marks are a record of processes, like traces or trailing spirits; an incarnation of indices from relics of walls, friezes, caves. They consist of gestures, lines, hand-marks, stains, streaks, and as well erasure amid nascent characters and motifs, some drawn as if into the sky, others approaching uncanny resonance to human elements; truncated remnants, elongated shapes and phantom bodily parts. The stealth forms verge on figuration, but remain loose, disembodied, and non intentional, like haunting apparitions, or accidents pulsating within regions of motion and gravity. Currents swallow and spit out, deep waters merge into horizons. In the end, histories and their fabulists morph and cycle through epochs, reinterpreted, and reconfiguring into new forms.