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← Julie Mehretu: Politicized Landscapes | Art21 "Extended Play"

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Showing Revision 1 created 09/13/2017 by Amara Bot.

  1. [Julie Mehretu: Politicized Landscapes]
  2. There is no such thing as just "landscape".
  3. The actual landscape is politicized through
  4. the events that take place on it.
  5. And I don't think it's possible for me,
    in general,
  6. to ever think about the American landscape
  7. without thinking about the colonial history--
  8. and the colonial violence--
    of that narrative.
  9. The abolitionist movement.
  10. The Civil War.
  11. The move towards emancipation.
  12. All of these social dynamics that are
    part of that narrative,
  13. we don't really talk about in regards to
    American landscape paintings.
  14. And so, what does it mean to paint a landscape
  15. and try and be an artist
    in this political moment?
  16. The color in these paintings
    really came out of
  17. blurred photographs that were
    embedded inside of the underpaintings.
  18. The sirens and the flames of race riots
  19. was a way to embed the paintings with DNA
  20. so that I could respond from a deeper place.
  21. --I'm going to go upstairs and take a look.
  22. --Yeah, I'm excited!
  23. [LAUGHS]
  24. Marian Goodman contacted me,
  25. telling me that SFMOMA was interested
    in doing this commission
  26. before the new museum opened.
  27. I went several times to San Francisco
    to visit the museum.
  28. I was there, staring at this
    very cavernous, open space--
  29. at these two walls.
  30. And I started to think about
    the national parks
  31. and the representations of
    American landscape painting.
  32. And, specifically, when I came back,
  33. I kept thinking about the
    Hudson River Valley School painters,
  34. like Edwin Church,
  35. Thomas Cole,
    Bierstadt--
  36. because they really encapsulate that idea
    of going westward.
  37. I started to layer the blurred color images
    into these historic landscape paintings.
  38. Just prior to emancipation,
  39. Native Americans of the Sierras
    and the western frontiers were
  40. completely annihilated by this
    expansionist project.
  41. What was interesting was that aspect of
  42. both annihilation and then
    preservation shortly after
  43. can exist on the same geographic landscape.
  44. San Francisco then, as a site,
  45. became important because that was
    this destiny of going out west.
  46. [Jason Moran, composer and pianist]
  47. --[MEHRETU] How are you doing?
  48. Jason Moran wrote me after seeing some paintings
  49. and he talked about them as a score.
  50. And I was super interested in that.
  51. And so we started working together here
  52. in a very, very loose and open way.
  53. It's kind of an amazing thing to paint
    in a church.
  54. Everything kind of reverberates
    back into here,
  55. energy-wise--
    consciousness-wise--
  56. and everything that has taken place
    this year in my personal life,
  57. with my children,
    with what has happened politically.
  58. All of that is immersed in these paintings.
  59. [Electric piano plays]
  60. All of these brutal killings of Black people
    in this country--
  61. and the Black body.
  62. The Trump-Hillary dynamic,
  63. it was disgusting to witness.
  64. There was something in that language
    that's visceral.
  65. When a person speaks so horrifically towards
    another being,
  66. that's deeply wrenching.
  67. The discomfort of being a person
    living and working in the United States
  68. is a place that, I think, these paintings
    were being made from.
  69. [Electric piano plays]
  70. [JASON MORAN] Every room defines one tone,
  71. and it's like the room tone.
  72. It's the tone that makes it resonate.
  73. And I started to find some of that
    in the note A-flat.
  74. I started to build around that,
  75. and then, every once in a while,
  76. look up and see where Julie was in her work.
  77. Then slowly, I started to look at
    my sheet of paper
  78. not as a place that had a start and a finish,
  79. but that all of it could be composed on
    different moments.
  80. --I made a little section where
    you were taking stuff away.
  81. [LAUGHS]
  82. --I made you a little part that's like,
    "I'm taking this away."
  83. [MEHRETU LAUGHS]
  84. [MORAN] America is a country still in the
    adolescent stage.
  85. It doesn't know how to deal with its emotions.
  86. [LAUGHS]
  87. It doesn't know how to deal with its history.
  88. It doesn't want to dig in the ground to know
    what artifacts are under it.
  89. And so, jazz, I always say,
    has been that form of music
  90. that's been the model of letting people
    know what's happening.
  91. It's always been like that.
  92. [Electric piano plays]
  93. And so we recorded the music because
  94. we should document the moment
  95. and also share the moment, too.
  96. [MEHRETU] I really try to think about
    painting in terms of
  97. the construction or making of an image.
  98. Dealing with things that
    we don't have proper language for.
  99. I kind of start to think of them as
    these visual neologisms.
  100. The neologism is there to address
    when language isn't enough.
  101. Through repetition of the mark,
  102. there's this desire of trying
    to invent something.
  103. At a certain point, I wanted to bring
    elements of the underpainting to the surface,
  104. so that it further complicated, spatially,
    how you were seeing these.
  105. When you're looking at these paintings,
    they're not graspable.
  106. There are moments where they reference
    Renaissance Ascension painting,
  107. and then other moments that feel digitized.
  108. At least for me,
    they're not something I feel like
  109. I can give any kind of articulation
    of what's happening fully.
  110. [Jazz music plays]
  111. I love California.
  112. There's this grandeur to the coast
    and the way the coast reaches the ocean.
  113. When you're driving through the Bay Area,
    it's just majestic.
  114. [San Francisco Museum of Modern Art]
  115. I feel like I have a hundred other paintings
    I want to make,
  116. because I've learned so much in making these.
  117. I'm not going to try and take a break
    or stop working.
  118. There's a lot of creative momentum
    in finishing these paintings.
  119. [Clapping and cheering]
  120. I have a lot of ideas that I want to investigate
  121. and I'm excited about that.