Julie Mehretu: Portals
How can artists help us see museum collections in new ways?
Julie Mehretu: Portals offers a fresh perspective on the Cleveland Museum of Art’s encyclopedic collection through an artist’s eyes. This exhibition, the first of its kind at the CMA, integrates paintings by Julie Mehretu with works from the museum’s permanent collection that Mehretu has selected and curated within the gallery. Spanning a range of cultures, histories, and mediums, the works she has chosen reflect images and ideas that inspire her own artistic practice and process.
One of the leading artists of her generation, Mehretu was born in Ethiopia in 1970, grew up in Michigan, and now lives in New York. Her art is abstract, but it is always firmly rooted in the recognizable world. Each work—whether a painting, a drawing, or a print—stems from her deep engagement with history, politics, and the social life unfolding outside her studio walls.
Mehretu’s early paintings explore architectural structures and systems of mapping. In her recent work, regard for the body—its forms and passages through the world—resides at the center. Throughout, an exquisite attention to rhythm, often in response to music, guides the artist’s gestures. Her work is further distinguished by a density, created through overlapping layers of ideas, source materials, and varied modes of mark making. These characteristics of Mehretu’s art are amplified throughout this exhibition, inviting novel encounters with historic and contemporary art alike.
Julie Mehretu: Portals is the start of a long-term engagement between Mehretu and Cleveland. She is creating an outdoor mural downtown that will debut in 2023.
Produced with support from Christopher and Dawn Fleischner.
FRONT exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art are presented by Richard and Michelle Jeschelnig, with additional support from the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation, Fleischner Family Charitable Foundation, the Louise H. and David S. Ingalls Foundation, and the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York.
The Cleveland Museum of Art is proud to partner with FRONT International. All exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art are underwritten by the CMA Fund for Exhibitions. Major annual support is provided by the Womens Council of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Generous annual support is provided by an anonymous supporter, Dick Blum (deceased) and Harriet Warm, Dr. Ben H. and Julia Brouhard, Mr. and Mrs. Walter R. Chapman Jr., the Jeffery Wallace Ellis Trust in memory of Lloyd H. Ellis Jr., Leigh and Andy Fabens, Michael Frank in memory of Patricia Snyder, the Sam J. Frankino Foundation, Janice Hammond and Edward Hemmelgarn, Eva and Rudolf Linnebach, William S. and Margaret F. Lipscomb, Bill and Joyce Litzler, Carl and Lu Anne Morrison, Henry Ott-Hansen, Tim O’Brien and Breck Platner, Mr. and Mrs. Michael F. Resch, Anne H. Weil, and Claudia C. Woods and David A. Osage.