Born in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, in 1970, Julie Mehretu was surrounded by political unrest for most of her childhood. For that reason, her works—while sweepingly beautiful and seemingly delicate—are often inspired by chaos and patterns of war. Using found objects, including pages from textbooks, architectural plans, and abstract symbols that suggest populations, warring factions and scattered refugees, Mehretu creates canvases that are half-flowchart and half-landscape.
The recipient of a 2001 Penny McCall award, Mehretu was awarded both a MacArthur fellowship and the American Art Award from the Whitney Museum in 2005. Last year, Mehretu's 80-by-23 foot mural for the lobby of Goldman Sachs was featured in a profile by Calvin Tomkins in the New Yorker, giving her recognition in all spheres of cultural and financial influence.