"Sapphic Strophes"; a suite of 4 relief prints to accompany the Poetry of Sappho

Julie Mehretu

"Sapphic Strophes"; a suite of 4 relief prints to accompany the Poetry of Sappho


Relief Prints

15" x 20"


Arion Press

San Francisco, CA


Price upon request

More Information

Julie Mehretu is one of the most admired artists working today. An Ethiopian-American painter known for her densely-layered abstract images, she lives in New York City and works there and in Berlin. She received the 2005 MacArthur Fellowship.

Julie Mehretu has made twenty double-page prints for the book, to be viewed between the facing pages of Greek texts and English translations, alternating throughout. The printmaking process began with the artist scratching the emulsion side of negative film with an etching needle. Light passing through the lines allowed the negative to serve as the direct matrix for a polymer platemaker. The plate, of thin steel, with raised plastic areas for the image, was then mounted on a magnetic base, making the printing surface the same height as type for letterpress printing. The linear effect is that of an etching, though the print is relief, not intaglio. The artist used different gauges of etching needles so that the line width varies and a layering effect is created. For some images, Mehretu drew with pen and ink on mylar over proofs of the images created with the scratched negatives to add yet another layer with a different linear quality, drawn rather than scratched. These elements are heavier yet and seem to rise above the surface of the etching-like imagery.

Mehretu is interested in lost cultures, in the remnants of artifacts of earlier civilizations. Plans of settlements and architecture underlie the surface of her works. Here she seems to unearth fragmentary manuscripts, and the marks are often quite calligraphic. They are poetic statements, graphic expressions of an ancient undecipherable literature that expresses human concerns as relevant today as they were in Greece over two thousand years ago. Mehretu’s art reminds one of Kandinsky’s abstractions and their enduring appeal over a century.

The suite of prints by Julie Mehretu is entitled Sapphic Strophes. The individual prints are titled Sapphic Strophe 1 through 4, in a printed statement of limitation on the back of each print. The prints are relief, printed by letterpress from polymer plates, all four from negatives scratched by the artist with an etching needle, two with overlay plates made from negatives of scans of ink drawings on Mylar. The paper is Italian mould-made Revere, 300 grams per square meter, 15 x 20 inches. The prints are signed by the artist and numbered 1/40 through 40/40 for sale and AP 1/5 through 5/5 as artist proofs and PP 1/5 through 5/5 as printer proofs. The suite of prints must be purchased with the book. Price: $11,750 (book included). Further information may be viewed here: http://www.arionpress.com/catalog/093.htm