“Palimpsest (old gods),” 2006. Ink and acrylic on canvas, 60 x 84 inches

The use of scale can change the way a viewer experiences an artwork. Mehretu creates artworks of vastly different sizes and scales, while reflecting on subjects such as mapping or the history of a place.

I think of my abstract mark-making as a type of sign lexicon, signifier, or language for characters that hold identity and have social agency. The characters in my maps plotted, journeyed, evolved, and built civilizations. I charted, analyzed, and mapped their experience and development: their cities, their suburbs, their conflicts, and their wars. The paintings occurred in an intangible no-place: a blank terrain, an abstracted map space. As I continued to work I needed a context for the marks, the characters. By combining many types of architectural plans and drawings I tried to create a metaphoric, tectonic view of structural history. I wanted to bring my drawing into time and place.
—  Julie Mehretu, “On Language and Place in Art,” 2014