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!”


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