At the age of 97, Los Angeles-based artist Luchita Hurtado has been painting surreal compositions for 80 years, but only recently has she garnered fame, thanks to a recent biennial, Made in LA 2018, at the Hammer Museum. As the only deviation from the contemporary, the 11 paintings included in the show were all painted in the 1960s and 70s. Although these paintings are decades old, the content remains modern in the midst of the #MeToo campaigns.
Hurtado was born in Venezuela and moved to New York City as a child, but has since lived in Mexico City, San Fransisco and now, Santa Monica. Her life has ironically been filled with artistic inspiration. Married to two artists and collectors, Wolfgang Paalen and Lee Mullican, Hurtado has a son, Matt Mullican, who is also an artist. Familiar friends with modern giants such as Man Ray, Rufino Tamayo, Agnes Martin, and Isamu Noguchi, Luchita Hurtado watched as other careers flourished while continuing to paint. Although, Hurtado showed at multiple exhibitions, her professional career did not take off.
Many of Hurtado's works are self portraits that appear foreshortened at the edges of her canvas, looking downwards. In contrast with her nude body, Hurtado utilizes patterned rugs and blue skies as backdrops. This perspective is rarely seen compositionally and even more unique aesthetically. However, Hurtado's perspective and the perception tools she uses provides a more feminist viewpoint. Particularly in tune with women's movements of the 1960s and 70s, Hurtado's representation of her own body is a statement of her personal presence and power. Amidst the ever changing backdrops, her body is the only constant. She also employs symbolism such as fruit; referring to sexuality, and traditional pattern work seen on baskets and blankets, referencing domestic labor and family. Hurtado was also interested in environmental movements during her life, which can be seen in her more surrealist landscapes. Within desert landscapes and mountains, Hurtado merges the human body. Breasts become sand dunes, feet become hill tops, and implied body parts connect with the natural world. Hurtado proposes that the earth is as much a living thing as the human body and we are ingrained as its presence as an organism.
With remarkable content still very relevant to the current sociopolitical environment, Hurtado's unique perspective is finally being rightly launched into a more mainstream eye. In comparison to her peers, Hurtado stands alone, showcasing a surrealist foundation but with a strong central feminist theme.