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Julie Mehretu: Can Social Abstraction Succeed?

Paddy Johnson reviews Julie Mehretu: Hoodnyx, Voodoo and Stelae at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, on view through October 29, 2016.

Johnson writes: “Without the titles, there’s no way to identify the grim events that inspire [Mehretu’s] work. The paintings add little to a path of abstract artist well trodden by now. With them, the mass of gestural marks look like rubble and the bits of color and light, a flicker of hope. It’s a bit too obvious. This back and forth doesn’t work out that well for Mehretu, and after contemplating the work for a while, I wondered if my assessment might be unduly harsh. By virtue of the discipline, abstract artists have limited means express their concerns about politics, world events or anything else. Is the bar for achievement too high for most artists to reach?(Mark Bradford not withstanding.)”