In her monumental paintings, Julie Mehretu begins with controlled public spaces — schools, airports, government buildings — using elements of mapping and architectural drawing in order to create dense landscapes. Cairo presents the ancient Egyptian city caught in a furious wind blowing off the Sahara, its structures and history extending into black and white vectors. Simultaneously, the work portrays Cairo as the contemporary, revolutionary city in the political spotlight as the seat of the Arab Spring, raising the world’s consciousness about government suppression and citizen-led change. The enormous work registers as a physical force, asserting itself as one unified mass. However, it also contains a level of detail that creates strong individual moments on the canvas. Cairo embodies dichotomies: ancient and contemporary, social and political, mass and individual. It is an expression of a city’s life and the complexity of its continued existence.
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