POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College will present the solo exhibition Excavations: The Prints of Julie Mehretu, as well as a selection of six of Mehretu’s paintings and drawings from the collection of alumna Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn ’89 and her husband Nicolas Rohatyn, on view from April 13 to June 17, 2012. Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn will deliver a lecture during the exhibition opening events on April 13.
Julie Mehretu is one of the most prominent artists working today. This retrospective exhibition, organized by Highpoint Center for Printmaking, Minneapolis (MN), showcases Mehretu’s engagement with printmaking, which stands at the heart of her art. It is the first retrospective exhibition of her prints. The viewer will see the evolution of her personal language of lines and marks in 20 prints made since 2000 with publishers in the United States and Europe.
Best known for large-scale abstract paintings, Mehretu has experimented with prints since graduate school at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) where she was enrolled in the painting and printmaking program in the mid-1990s. Today, printmaking is a vital part of her creative process. She has completed collaborative projects at professional printmaking studios across America, among them Highpoint Editions in Minneapolis, Crown Point Press in San Francisco, and Derriere L’Etoile Studios and Burnet Editions in New York City.
Siri Engberg, curator at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and guest curator of the exhibition, noted in her essay for the show’s catalogue: “The printshop has become a space for examining her body of work and excavating it to create new layers of visual and conceptual meaning.”
Mehretu’s exploration of printmaking began with etching, a hands-on process that goes back to decorating armor, and that saw its greatest exponent in Rembrandt in 17th-century Holland.
The thoughtful approach that etching demanded changed Mehretu’s way of working and proved a breakthrough for her. When making etchings for the first time at RISD, she noted recently that with this process “you were working slower,” that “you worked with a needle and a smaller scale.” It was a far more deliberative process than drawing and painting. After making these early etchings, she said that she then changed course with her other work and “approached drawing like etching.” From then on until today, this more deliberate way of working has governed the development of her dynamic abstract language.
Etching at RISD provided another breakthrough moment during a RISD winter session in etching in Mexico, when she made her first aerial drawing. Aerial space is a profoundly essential element in all of Mehretu’s work. Bird’s-eye views of charged atmospheric spaces define the prints on view, along with layers of sweeping lines and marks. The effect suggests bursts of energy and activity seen from high in the air, almost like a passenger watching from the window of a jet.
Mehretu is interested in the emotional effects of these allegorical collisions of networks, lines, and marks on the viewer. In those small, distinctive marks she senses the individual’s role or story within the larger community. This is an important notion for her, for her dense aerial layers signify the multiple systems we all experience every day—home, community, society, nature, weather, and the world at large, and our place within all of this order and chaos.
While etching is the most frequent process seen in the works in the exhibition, other techniques are represented, including aquatint, drypoint, engraving, pochoir, lithography, and screenprinting. The accompanying catalogue features documentation and color plates of the prints and an introductory essay by Siri Engberg.
An adjacent display will present selected paintings and drawings by Mehretu, generously loaned from the collection of Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn (Vassar class of 1989) and Nicolas Rohatyn.
About the Artist
Born in 1970 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Julie Mehretu (pronounced MoRETu) divides her time between New York and Berlin. She came to the United States at the age of seven, growing up in East Lansing, Michigan, and attended Kalamazoo College sixty miles away, graduating with a B.A. in 1992. She received her M.F.A. from Rhode Island School of Design in 1997. In 2005 she won a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and in 2007 she was awarded an American Academy in Berlin Fellowship. Since graduate school her work has appeared nationally and internationally in one-person and group exhibitions. She is represented in numerous collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In 2010 she completed a major painting commission for Goldman Sachs Bank in Lower Manhattan.
About the Highpoint Center for Printmaking
Established in 2001, Highpoint Center for Printmaking is a non-profit art center dedicated to advancing the appreciation and understanding of the printmaking arts. Highpoint offers educational programs for children and adults, a studio cooperative, professional publishing opportunities, and a street-level gallery featuring contemporary prints. No other printmaking center in the Upper Midwest provides such a wide range of public access and programs.
Excavations: The Prints of Julie Mehretu originated at the Highpoint Center for Printmaking (Minneapolis, MN) and was guest-curated by Siri Engberg, from the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN). The exhibition has also been on view at Cornell University’s Johnson Museum of Art (Ithaca, NY) and Wesleyan’s Davison Art Center (Middletown, CT).
Friday, April 13
Opening lecture and reception
Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn ’89
Taylor Hall, Room 203
Art Center Atrium
Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn is a gallerist, art advisor, independent curator, collector, and tastemaker. She served as a judge during season one of Bravo TV’s “Work of Art.” Greenberg Rohatyn studied art history at Vassar College, and continued her graduate studies at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. She worked for the Brooklyn Museum as the assistant curator of contemporary art and for the Royal Academy in London as the curatorial assistant to Norman Rosenthal. In the early 1990s, Greenberg Rohatyn became director of Jeffrey Deitch, Inc, while producing a number of innovative satellite projects and performances that would later become her signature. In 1996, Peter Halley Drawings 1991-1995, an exhibition she organized, was presented at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. She founded Salon 94 in 2002, an experimental project space in New York City for emerging and mid-career contemporary artists, such as Marilyn Minter, Lorna Simpson, Betty Woodman, and Takeshi Murata. She has continued to expand her vision and opened satellite galleries: Salon 94 Freemans on the Lower East Side and Salon 94 Bowery. Greenberg Rohatyn resides in New York City’s Upper East Side with her husband, Nicolas.
About the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center was founded in 1864 as the Vassar College Art Gallery. The current 36,400-square-foot facility, designed by Cesar Pelli and named in honor of the new building's primary donor, opened in 1993. The Art Center's collections chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise over 18,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and glass and ceramic wares. Notable holdings include the Warburg Collection of Old Master prints, an important group of Hudson River School paintings given by Matthew Vassar at the college's inception, and a wide range of works by major European and American 20th- century painters. Vassar was the first U.S. college founded with a permanent art collection and gallery, and at any given time, the Permanent Collection Galleries of the Art Center feature approximately 350 works from Vassar's extensive collections.
Admission to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is free. The Art Center is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 10:00am–5:00pm; Thursday, 10:00am–9:00pm; and Sunday, 1:00–5:00pm. Located at the entrance to the historic Vassar College campus, the Art Center can be reached within minutes from other Mid-Hudson cultural attractions, such as Dia:Beacon, the Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt national historic sites and homes, and the Vanderbilt mansion. The Art Center is wheelchair accessible. For additional information, the public may call (845) 437-5632 or visit fllac.vassar.edu.
Directions to the Vassar campus are available at www.vassar.edu/directions.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.