New York 32 East 69th Street
Luchita Hurtado’s (Venezuela, b.1920) first solo exhibition with Hauser & Wirth, focuses on the artist’s early works from the 1940s to the 1950s, a period defined by prolific experimentation. Comprising of crayon and ink paintings on board and paper, graphite and ink drawings, and oil paintings on canvas, the works on view range stylistically from surrealist figuration and geometric patterning to biomorphic forms executed with expressive acuity. Together, they underscore the vast scope of Hurtado’s early expression and illuminate the origins of an artistic output that would continue to evolve for decades to come.
Hurtado’s multicultural life and career reflect in the eclectic mediums and formal techniques of her oeuvre. Born in Maiquetia, Vargas, Venezuela in 1920, she emigrated to the United States in 1928, settling in New York where she attended classes at the Art Students League. In the mid-forties, Hurtado freelanced as a fashion illustrator for Condé Nast and window designer for Lord & Taylor. She relocated to Mexico City in the late 1940s then moved to San Francisco Bay the following decade, making frequent visits to Taos, and ultimately settling in Los Angeles where she continues to make work today. Although associated with a vast network of internationally renowned artists and intellectuals throughout the decades, including Mexican muralists, Surrealists, and members of Dynaton, Hurtado’s practice always remained an independent – and until recent years, largely private – pursuit.
Hurtado produced her earliest paintings and drawings in spare moments, often at her kitchen table at night or carved out spaces in other artists’ studios. Executed in a variety of mediums with masterful range, Hurtado rendered her work in brightly hued palettes of pinks, blues, and greens that drew inspiration from the landscapes and tropical flora of Mexico, and her native Venezuela. Using colored crayon to push against black ink, Hurtado created intricate compositions akin to primordial landscapes that are comprised of vaguely figurative forms set amidst pulsating, angular patterning.
Hurtado evocatively titled a trio of graphite drawings from 1945 ‘Holly Leaf and Sea’s seeds in Memory of time past,’ ‘Leaves and Trees,’ and ‘Spring Burst.’ More overtly biomorphic and surreal, these delicate works on paper demonstrate Hurtado’s deeply rooted belief in the interconnectedness of all living organisms. She often emphasizes the mystical and transcendental possibilities of a keen awareness of and close relationship to nature.
The exhibition borrows its eponymous title from one of the paintings on view: ‘Luchita – Dark Years’ (ca. 1954), a self-portrait in which the artist’s piercing gaze advances from a shadowy ground. This striking rendering marks a significant shift towards Hurtado’s investigation of self-affirmation, which emerges as a pervasive theme across her body of work.
on view until April 6, 2019