NYT: “Luchita Hurtado, Artist Who Became a Sensation in Her 90s, Dies at 99”


Here is an obituary article by Karen Rosenberg for The New York Times, who says about Venezuelan-born Luchita Hurtado, “For years she worked in the shadow of her artist husbands and more famous peers, painting at night when the children were asleep. Then a trove of her work was discovered.” [Also see our previous post Luchita Hurtado dies at 99.]

Luchita Hurtado, an artist whose paintings and drawings emphasized the interconnectedness of all living things with a visionary intensity that was almost shamanic, but whose work was recognized by the art world only late in her life, died on Thursday night at her home in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 99.

Her gallery representative, Andrea Schwan, confirmed the death.

A near-contemporary and friend of Frida Kahlo, Isamu Noguchi and Agnes Martin, among other prominent modern artists, the Venezuelan-born Ms. Hurtado was an active participant in the art scenes of New York, Mexico City, Taos, N.M., and Los Angeles, where she had lived since 1951.

Her work spanned Surrealism, Mexican muralism, feminism and environmentalism, and she was associated with Dynaton, a group of mystically minded abstract artists, among them her second husband, the Austrian-Mexican Wolfgang Paalen, and her third husband, the American Lee Mullican. Yet her art was rarely exhibited until the 1970s, and then only sporadically and in small venues until she was in her 90s, when Mr. Mullican’s studio manager came across a vast archive of her paintings and drawings.

Working in graphite, watercolor, ink and acrylic, Ms. Hurtado depicted bodies — her own, as well as totemic figures — merging with landscapes and interiors in electric expressions of rootedness and communality. She sought out diverse sources of inspiration, including ancient traditions — cave paintings at Lascaux, France; Olmec heads in La Venta, Mexico; tribal dances in Taos — as well as mid-20th-century schools of abstraction.

“Everything in this world, I find, I’m related to,” she once said.

Her “I Am” series from the late 1960s shows her surveying her own body: standing in a closet and smoking a cigarette, lit match still in hand, while staring down at her steeply foreshortened feet. (These works are reminiscent of the ruminative, multitasking self-portraits of Philip Guston and of the painter Joan Semmel’s feminist nudes, shown from a similar perspective.) In some of Ms. Hurtado’s works, brightly patterned rugs, baskets and other decorative elements interrupt the introspection.

“Her vision of the human body as a part of the world, not separate from nature, is more urgent today than ever,” the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist wrote when she was named to the 2019 Time 100 list of influential people. “Luchita’s masterly oeuvre offers an extraordinary perspective that focuses attention on the edges of our bodies and the language that we use to bridge the gap between ourselves and others.”

Luchita Hurtado was born on Nov. 28, 1920, in Maiquetía, a Venezuelan coastal city about 15 miles north of Caracas. At age 8 she emigrated to New York, where she lived with her mother, a seamstress, her sister and two aunts; her father remained behind in Venezuela.

She studied fine art at Washington Irving High School in Manhattan and, after graduating, volunteered at the Spanish-language newspaper La Prensa. There she met Daniel del Solar, a much older journalist, and, at age 18, married him. During their brief, peripatetic union, she was introduced to other creative expatriates and intellectuals, among them Mr. Noguchi, the Mexican abstract painter Rufino Tamayo and the Chilean Surrealist Roberto Matta.

But her husband abandoned her and their children when the second of their two sons was still an infant — he “just came for his books and left, and I never saw him again,” she recalled. [. . .]

Ms. Hurtado took classes at the Art Students League and, with Mr. Noguchi and other friends, made the rounds of influential galleries, including Betty Parsons and Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century. It was through Mr. Noguchi that she met Mr. Paalen.

Ms. Hurtado joined him in Mexico City in the mid-1940s and became part of a close-knit art community there in which Mexican muralists, American photographers and European Surrealists who had fled World War II mingled freely. The couple lived in the same neighborhood as Kahlo and her husband, the painter Diego Rivera, and socialized with Leonora Carrington, the British painter and dream chronicler. They traveled throughout Mexico collecting pre-Columbian art, the influence of which can be seen in Ms. Hurtado’s paintings from this period. [. . .]

“When I think about my painting and the political and the planet,” she told the artist Andrea Bowers in a 2019 interview, “it’s about the hope that it’s not too late and that people can still get together and in whatever small way make a difference that adds up.”

For full article, go to https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/14/arts/luchita-hurtado-dead.html

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