Julie Mehretu (b. 1970)
Julie Mehretu (b. 1970)

Untitled (Yellow with Ellipses)

Julie Mehretu (b. 1970)
Untitled (Yellow with Ellipses)
signed and dated 'julie mehretu 1998' (on the reverse)
ink and acrylic on canvas mounted on panel
41 7/8 x 60 1/8 in. (106.3 x 152.7 cm.)
Painted in 1998.
Barbara Davis Gallery, Houston
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998
Houston, Barbara Davis Gallery, Julie Mehretu, July-August 1998.

Lot Essay

"When Julie Mehretu's works first emerged in the late 1990s - amidst a spree of brash, design-driven painting - there was an exotic reticence about their milky, matt acrylic, mazy ink drawing and hard-edged stencilling. She was systematic and deliberate when the thing to be was glossy and flash"
(M. Prince, "Julie Mehretu," Frieze, March 2010).

Julie Mehretu often cites her time at a residency program at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, from 1997 to 1999, as a formative moment in her career. It was during the Houston years that Mehretu ventured beyond her emphasis on mark marking, which often resembled maps or aerial views, to a concentration on architectural drawings. These lines recall a range of references from the automatic drawing and writing of the Surrealists, to Cy Twombly's expressive lines as well as Chinese calligraphy. During her residency at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, she borrowed an architectural drawings book from the museum library, and projected images onto a painting she was working on in her studio. She then traced the projections directly onto the canvas. This was undoubtedly a pivotal moment in her artistic development, before she began to work on a more monumental scale.

Abstraction and precision dovetail with formal concerns of color and line in Julie Mehretu's exquisite early canvases. Untitled, from 1998 was included in an important solo exhibition at Barbara Davis Gallery in Houston the same year as one of the artist's first solo shows. In its winding, linear abstraction and rhythmic ovoid forms, Untitled captures the genesis of Mehretu's cartographic aesthetic while anticipating her later work. The present work is unmistakably by Mehretu, manifested in her subtle sequence of color, dance of linear segments, and choreography of geometric shapes. An illustrious example of the artist's seminal forms, Untitled is at once prophetic and revealing; it invites imagination far beyond the edges of the canvas.

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