Julie Mehretu

Artist Julie Mehretu was commissioned to paint a large scale mural (we’re talking eighty feet long, twenty-three feet high, here) for the Goldman Sachs office in lower Manhattan. Mural, 2010, incorporates the visual language from maps of the Silk Road as well as architectural drawings. The piece appears as a swarm of fragmented, exploding, perspectival lines and planes of color. It was built by layering information, building up a complex system that maps the idea of commerce, trade, and capitalism over thousands of years.

Mehretu says of the piece:

“If you’re gonna make a picture of that scale and embed that, locate that in lower Manhattan, which is where it’s commissioned for — can you deal, then, with what lower Manhattan symbolizes?

Something that’s been a big part of trying to figure out who I am and my work is trying to understand systems. What you see here is only the first layer of information and that layer of information is hopefully something that mimics early maps from the early Silk Road through the evolution of the marketplace. Can you actually make a picture that, in some way, maps and gives a picture of this history? Of the development, you know, capitalist development, economic systems. Which is absurd!”


Agnes Denes

Isometric Systems in Isotropic Space: Map Projections - The Hot Dog, copyright Agnes Denes, 1974
Isometric Systems in Isotropic Space: Map Projections – The Hot Dog, copyright Agnes Denes, 1974

For decades, contemporary artist Agnes Denes (b. 1931) has been challenging commonly-held assumptions of what belongs where and how we understand space as it is ‘supposed to be.’ Her work can be described as mathematical, ecological, poetic. Here are a few of her works in which she engages the practice of mapping.

Above, The Hot Dog, and below, The Doughnut, are two examples of Denes’ map projection drawings, in which she bends and stretches a map of the world over quite an unusual shape. As put so well by The Whitney:

“A longtime advocate for human stewardship of and responsibility for the planet, Denes used this drawing [The Doughnut] and her other Map Projections to reimagine to earth and the place of humans on it. As she remarked, ‘longitude and latitude lines were unraveled, points of intersection cut, continents allowed to drift, gravity tampered with [and] earth mass altered.’”


Tree Mountain is monumental in scales of both time and space. For this earthwork, Denes mapped the placement of 11,000 trees to be planted at the Pinziö gravel pits near Ylöjärvi, Finland. The trees will be maintained by the government of Finland for 400 years. In this case, Denes’ map becomes actually built, or planted, into the environment, in hopes that it will do good for centuries to come.


Images sourced from: agnesdenesstudio.com

Winter blues getting you down? Visit the new exhibit Artists’ Maps!

Fenwick Gallery’s new exhibit Artists’ Maps is now on display until February 20. This exhibit was curated by Graduate Professional Assistant and MFA student Anne Smith.

A selection of relevant books from the library’s circulating collection is also on display in the gallery bookcase. You are welcome to check out books placed on the shelves.

Introducing…. Artists’ Maps

Happy New Year and welcome back from winter break! We are excited to introduce our current exhibit, Artists’ Maps. 

In this exhibit, you will find work by artists who study and/or teach at Mason, as well as work by artists in the Mason Libraries collection. Each of these artists engage and interpret maps in their work, expanding the traditional notion of what a map can do and be.

Please visit the exhibit and see amazing work by:

Carmon Colangelo
Marianne Epstein
Floating Lab Collective
Melissa Hill
Jacob Lahah
Sarah McDermott
Lise Melhorn-Boe
Cathryn Miller
Sharon A. Sharp

More information can be found on the exhibit page.

And here is a list of related library books – located, as usual, on the gallery bookshelf.