23 May 2019 – 20 October 2019 @Serpentine Sackler Gallery
It’s never too late to be what you might have been, said George Eliot. In the case of Luchita Hurtado, to be a solo exhibitor at the Serpentine Gallery. The ninety-eight-year-old artist enjoys now the success she deserved 40 years ago – a neglected talent, she was then discovered in recent years by the artist Lee Mullican (her third husband), and her Studio Director, Ryan Good.
Painting expertise aside, Hurtado is also a poet, ecologist, feminist and activist, plus a contributor to fashion and photography, as she has designed her clothes for many decades.
The Venezuelan-born artist spent the first part of her life in New York, then in California – always lining up with influential artistic circles: the Mexican surrealism of the ’40s (involvement perhaps due to her second husband, the artist and collector Wolfang Paalen), the Dynaton Group of the ’50s (which also included Lee Mullican), the Magic Realism, the LA Council Of Women Artists. Despite this, ‘hidden-talent-in-full-light Luchita’ has maintained her unique style in-tact throughout these years.
Through her work we examine the world and its everyday reality from an exclusive perspective: her-own and every human body represent a sort of tool of the universe, where the surrounding space bestows upon it the role of a main protagonist. Her paintings depict naked bodies that walk, linger, access the room with curiosity, explore the space around, stare at their own feet; we observe the scene feeling closely involved, through intimate gestures that evoke familiarity. It is no coincidence that the retrospective is baptised “I Live, I Die, I Will Be Reborn”: Hurtado broadcasts pure vitality, using brilliant colours and light – glimpses of memories, spiritual energies and adventures from past lives.
Her obsession with light emerges in the ‘canvettes’ series entitled ‘Moth Lights’: these are white rectangles and squares framed into colorful frescoes, with a scintillating intense white centre that gives a sense of depth and radiance (“so real a moth may well attach itself to it”). All these canvettes compose a door to another dimension where there is no place for darkness – a concept itself which is deeply connected to Hurtado’s idea of spirituality and unity, and that harmonically stands out in all her work.
The second room is full of ink and oil works on paper and canvas, where the themes of nature and language are strongly intensified. The environment is represented in all its generating force, and defended as a blood relative, a family member. The uncertainty of our century towards nature (and the urgency to sort out the environmental question) takes shape in a human figure that loses its identity in a confused landscape. In another painting, Luchita focuses on word and the power of language as if they were warriors, inviting the public to ask questions through the use of explicit language. An invisible connection starts from man and through nature reaches the cosmos.
The totemic emblem of a dancing figure appears regularly in her work, including a series of paintings created during the last 12 months now presented for the first time at the Serpentine. Luchita’s exhibition is an invitation for the viewer not to ignore the nature of connections, where the concept of life itself transmutes into a large canvas, where colours sparkle and blend with our own energy.
“All the variety, all the delight, all the beauty of life is composed of shadow and light”