Artist Luchita Hurtado passed away on the 18th of last month at the age of 99. In 2019, she was selected as one of the 100 most influential people in《Time Magazine》(Time 100). There are only two artists on the list, and she is one of them.
Last year, Hurtado received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Americans for the Arts, but stated that “this is just the beginning.” During Hurtado’s 80-year career as a painter, her creations did not receive much recognition, unlike most young artists. In 1974 she held her first solo exhibition. 42 years later, she held a small exhibition at the Park View Gallery in Los Angeles, which was highly regarded by art critics from the Los Angeles Times. She gradually gained fame and recognition on the global art stage. In 2019, a 99-year-old retrospective exhibition called I Live I Die I Will be Reborn was held at the Serpentine Galleries in London.
Her works mostly explore the female body and the relationship between human beings and nature. Using geometric figures, objects, etc. to contrast the soft curves of the human body against the blending of different backgrounds, Hurtado allows the audience to watch the naked girl from different angles. She called this series of self portraits I Am. The foundation of her artistic language is combined with mysticism, taking the human body and transforming it into natural terrain and sand dunes.
Hurtado’s ideas were regarded as very avante-garde at the time, as people didn’t value women’s bodies and gender equality. However, she had already portrayed these issues in her artworks many years ago. Art critic Christopher Knight said her paintings “combined multiculturalism before it became popular.” As an art pioneer in the age of the rise of industry, she became one of the first to lead a discussion about race and women. As a result, her legacy remains in art history and she has become one of the most influential people in Time 100. Observing the works of this 99-year old artist throughout many years is not outdated, and it is still easy to find a place to discuss these topics in today’s world.
Although she gained recognition later in her career, she has always been in the art world. She is the wife of Wolfgang Paalen and Lee Mullican, Matt Mullican’s mother and friends of Frida Kahlo, Isamu Noguchi and Leonora Carrington, all of which are key figures in contemporary art. They drove Surrealism, the Dynaton Movement, Realism, and other art movements and reforms.
Curator Hans Ulrich Obrist of Serpentine Galleries stated that even though Hurtado was surrounded by prominent artists, she created her own unique style of art and did not reveal her works in art shows. She continuously experimented and explored the boundaries between herself and the world. Obrist mentioned: “her artistic practice is full of vision and vitality”, which stems from Hurtado’s passion and sense of responsibility for the earth. She believed that everything was connected to the planet, and it combined the human form and the division of abstract geometry as a frame and landscape (with a broad view of the sky and the earth). She wanted to portray the connection between human beings and everything in the world, as a reminder that everyone has a responsibility to the planet.
Hurtado would have turned 100 in October this year, but unfortunately couldn’t make it to her 100-year-old tour in Mexico (for a solo exhibition). Her vast artistic outlook is an example for future generations, as she leads art to become a force that changes the world.
Figure 1：Luchita Hurtado, Mascara (1975). Oil on canvas, 27 x 36 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth, © Luchita Hurtado. Photo: Jeff McLane.
Figure2 top left：Untitled (1971) Courtesy of Luchita Hurtado and Hauser & Wirth.
Figure2 Middle left：Luchita Hurtado Untitled, 1973 Oil on canvas and thread ©Luchita Hurtado Photo Credit: Brain Forrest.
Figure2 top right：Luchita Hurtado Untitled, 1962 ink on paper ©Luchita Hurtado Photo Credit: Jeff McLane.
Figure2 middle right：Luchita Hurtado, Santa Monica, California, 1973. ©Luchita Hurtado. Photo by Matt Mullican.
Figure2 right bottom：Luchita Hurtado I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn (Installation view, 23 May – 20 October 2019, Serpentine Galleries) Photo: Hugo Glendinning © 2019 Luchita Hurtado