For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, it feels like Luchita Hurtado’s name has been in the air lately. Or perhaps it is just that at the age of 98 this is her first solo show in the UK and in any public gallery, worldwide. So I was excited to check out this show.
She was born in Venezuela in 1920 and when she was a child her family moved to New York City, in 1928. She studied at Washington Irving High School (where I recently learnt Lee Krasner studied) as well as at the Art Students League. She started her career as a fashion illustrator and muralist in the 1940s and largely spent her time between NYC and Mexico City, before moving to California in the 1950s. Somewhere along the way she became friends with a who’s who of the 20th Century art world – Duchamp, Chagall, Leger, Miró, Rothko, Krasner, Pollock, André Breton, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, the de Koonings and more. It was an art scene bubbling with Europeans escaping the horrors of war across the continent. Perhaps she also knew Eugenio Granell. He was an artist I learnt about on a recent trip, and also friends with André Breton. I feel like they might have known each other, living in NYC, both Spanish speakers and part of the same art world.
Anyway, back on the art, here are my highlights:
001 Waxy Textures
I love wax resist textures. In her early work, Hurtado also seems fascinated by this too.
002 Lots of time experimenting
Through the 1950s and 1960s Hurtado is experimenting with lots of different techniques and ideas. These decades feel quite higgledy piggledy (to me, based on this show – caveat) and that it’s not until later in the 1970s that she starts to form more cohesive series of works. If that is true, its brilliant to see this being honestly shown. To me it feels like an honest telling of the years spent plugging away, not necessarily knowing where you’re going. That you just have to put time in and not ask anything back of it.
She experimented with figures that definitely make me think she knew Eugenio Granell in the 1950s.
The body from unexpected angles:
Realistic self-portraits, as well as disguised self-portraits:
All of which laid the ground for her work in the 1970s
003 ‘I am’ Self Portraits
These were my highlights of the whole show. She paints her self-portrait from her own viewpoint. She looks down on her body in a domestic setting and treats her body to the grace of a landscape.
004 Looking Up
And then she stopped looking down at started looking up …
I particularly loved this feather, it felt so 3 dimensional, I had to take the photo from the side!
005 Moth Lights
In the 1970s she was not afraid to do radically different things. She didn’t seem to feel a need to develop or stick to a style – one of my favourite traits in artists. She also set herself the challenge of trying to paint light in such a way that moths would be tricked and land on her canvas. Talk about goals!
006 Words and Pattern
She plays with words making patterns adn shapes. First in white, with the words still legible – Adam, Eve, Woman, Womb, You
And later with colour and patterns that are remniscent of the rugs in her self-portraits, and hiding words and messages much more opaquely.
007 Life Goes On
She is still working today and it would seem actively thinking about the world today and how life continues, in all senses
Exhibition on at The Serpentine Gallery until 20th October 2019. Free
Header Image = Excerpt from Earth And Sky by Luchita Hurtado, c1970s