Mehretu has periodically painted large, horizontal canvases full of layered drawings—like the four in this gallery—to address complexities of scale, size, detail, and expanse. These panoramas often address monolithic histories, such as twentieth-century modernism and the African liberation movements of that time.
She painted Cairo after spending time in the city in the days following Egypt’s first democratic election. The painting explores Tahrir Square, which millions of protesters occupied for eighteen days in 2011, from multiple diffracted vantage points. Mehretu based the composition on an array of images such as aerial maps, her own photos, and a bus map that became the main artery inside the painting. The resulting work seems to vibrate and spin, suggesting the passage of time and the movements of millions of bodies during the uprisings.
Ink and acrylic on canvas
The Broad Art Foundation
© Julie Mehretu, photo: Tom Powel Imaging