Julie Mehretu
Close Julie Mehretu.  Courtesy de la galerie Marian Goodman. Photo Anastasia Muna.
January 17

Cycle The Artist Presents — Julie Mehretu about David Hammons

Conceived in homage to the famous Artists on Artists lectures held at the Dia Art Foundation, this series of events asks artists to share their view of the work of another artist on display at the Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection. On this occasion, American visual artist Julie Mehretu has been invited to comment on the works of David Hammons, in conversation with Caroline Bourgeois. 

Julie Mehretu 

Born in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia in 1970, Julie Mehretu currently lives and works in New York City. In 1997 she earned her degree in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her work consists mainly of large-format canvases on which she applies layers of acrylic paint. The compression and saturation of the surface draws its inspiration from the overpopulated megalopolises of the 21st century. Her composi-tions combine a variety of architectural renderings overlaid with geometric forms and a multitude of signs made with pencil, pen, and ink. The artist defines her work as “narrative maps of places that don’t exist”, imaginary representations in which fragments of contemporary urban realities appear, and in which spaces compress and rhythms accelerate. The structure of these overlays, in which the stratified elements exist “almost like fossils”, reverberates with a sense of memory and heritage. At the cube at the Punta della Dogana, Mehretu painted two canvases (both titled Untitled, 2011) that were shown in the exhibition In Praise of Doubt (2011-13). Her work was also featured in the Punta della Dogana’s exhibition Luogo e Segni [“Place and Signs”].

David Hammons

Born in Springfield, Illinois in 1943, has woven a furtive and subversive body of work since the 1970s that consists of performances, temporary installations, and the recovery of scrap objects. Spurred on by the piercing wound of everyday racism, he finds power in lifting the invisibility of the oppressed. Inspired by Arte Povera during his 1989 stay in Rome, Hammons, a master of assemblages of the lowly and the precarious, recycles objects he finds as he wanders, searching for inspiration in the everyday and in the street, all the while referring to the history of modern art with scholarly insight. A steel post, a rusted windshield, and a metal circle form a basketball hoop (Untitled, 1989); a cassette tape on a busted bicycle become a coat hanger (Central Park West, 1990) has all the force of a sculpted group of figures; and two ordinary, opalescent, heated, torn, and melted tarps (Untitled, 2021) form an abstract canvas of an unprecedented visual intensity and lyricism. Many of his works denounce the place that Black people have been assigned in American society. He has shed a particular light on the misery of Harlem, which has been despoiled of its cultural heritage by a newer consumer culture.