Buildings, streets, and entire cities crash into one another. Countless urban details – housing block windows, city maps – overwhelm your field of vision. Black squiggles race across the surface surrounded by flashes of colour: a beam of yellow, a red parallelogram.
The world Julie Mehretu paints is bogglingly chaotic. Yet when I meet the American artist in her light-soaked workspace overlooking New York’s Hudson River (Martha Stewart has her office a few storeys below), the mood in the studio is the exact opposite: calm, collected, in total control. She is preparing for not one but two major solo exhibitions – one in New York, one in London – and a pair of assistants quietly help her apply the final painstaking touches to her latest paintings. Bird’s-eye views of cities in the Middle East are taped to the walls. The bookshelves groan with volumes on everything from French genre painting to Ethiopian history; her studio is as much a think tank as a laboratory. And Mehretu’s wife, the artist Jessica Rankin, has stopped by – they’re preparing to leave town, and they have two sons’ schedules to get in order.