Luchita Hurtado (b. 1920, Maiquetía, Venezuela, d. 2020, Santa Monica, California) was an artist, traveler, activist, poet, designer, collector, photographer, friend, mother, wife, and self-described citizen of the world. While traveling widely and moving deftly throughout influential artistic circles of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Hurtado maintained a singular drawing and painting practice. Spanning over eighty years, the artist’s diverse bodies of work reflect a tenacious engagement with herself and the world around her.

1920

On November 28th, at nine o’clock in the evening, Luisa Amelia Garcia Rodriguez is born in Maiquetía, Vargas, Venezuela to father Pedro Jose Garcia and mother Teolinda Rodriguez, who went into labor while bathing in the Caribbean ocean. Maiquetía is a small coastal city located North-West of the capital Caracas.

Hurtado is named after her family member, Luisa Malia, who owns the property her family lives on. Her sister, Maria Cecilia Garcia Rodriguez is two years older. Their mother works as a seamstress and her father as a representative of Singer Sewing machines.

1922

Hurtado’s brother, Pedro Jose Garcia Rodriguez is born.

Caracas, Venezuela
Caracas, Venezuela

1923–1927

Hurtado’s mother, Teolinda, immigrates to New York City where her two younger sisters, Margot and Marietta, were living with their children. Teolinda brings Hurtado’s sister with her to New York while Hurtado and her brother stay in Venezuela.

Hurtado and her brother Pedro are raised by her father’s two aunts, one named Manana, who cooks and looks after Luchita, and the other named Manina, who looks after Pedro. Hurtado is taught sewing, crocheting, and embroidering by her grandmother, Rosario Rodriguez.

Hurtado recalls knowing she was an artist at a young age through intimate sensory experiences with nature, inspired by the sight and smell of a butterfly hatching from its cocoon. She is also drawn to the sensory experiences of the Latin American Catholic mass. Although skeptical of the church Hurtado is inspired by the rituals, music, flowers, and incense.

1928

In December Hurtado’s mother collects her from Maiquetía and Hurtado immigrates to New York. This is the last time Hurtado sees her father. They travel by boat via Puerto Rico before arriving at Ellis Island on December 13th where Hurtado recalls seeing snow for the first time.

1929–1934

Arriving in New York, Hurtado speaks Spanish and little English. Living with her mother, sister, aunts, and cousins in the Latin American neighborhood of Inwood, New York, Hurtado listens closely to words that sound similar in English and Spanish and teaches herself English, after which she feels more at home in New York. Her mother continues to work as a seamstress and remarries a man from Cuba with a daughter from a previous marriage.

Hurtado begins her life-long passion for collecting by amassing books. After reading Tomás de Torquemada’s ‘Inquisition’, Hurtado tells her mother she will no longer participate in the church.

The last name that I had growing up was Garcia Rodriguez, that’s like being called “Smith Jones”. I decided that wasn’t right. So I chose the last name of my grandmother on my mother’s side, Hurtado.

1935

As Hurtado’s family is not involved in art she finds ways to educate herself. After meeting a group of young women interested in art and theatre she decides to attend the all-girls art high school, Washington Irving, a two-hour round-trip subway ride near Union Square. Although her mother wanted her to learn dressmaking, Hurtado chooses to study art and theatre.

In school, she excels at art and is selected to draw Gramercy Park for the cover of her school magazine. Hurtado is given a key to the park to create a watercolor of the fountain and feels encouraged by the trust placed in her as a young artist.

Hurtado, circa 1930s
Hurtado, circa 1930s

1936

After graduating high school, Hurtado’s mother learns that she was studying fine art, not to be a seamstress.

Encouraged by department chair , Hurtado audits classes at the New York Art Student League.

1937

With a desire to be involved in politics and support the anti-fascist movement during the Spanish Civil War, Hurtado spends the summer after she graduates volunteering at La Prensa, a Spanish language newspaper in New York. There she meets Daniel del Solar, a Chilean journalist who works for the Associated Press. Del Solar invites Hurtado to coffee and they discuss politics.

Luchita Hurtado, c.1938
Luchita Hurtado, c.1938

1938

An early drawing of a stove top dated c.1938 is an abstracted range housing a ring of blue fire. In this early work on paper, Hurtado establishes two major themes that she returns to: rendering light through color and employing a perspective that looks downwards towards the subject.

1939

Hurtado and Daniel del Solar marry at a small spur-of-the-moment ceremony in Long Island City on July 29th. Del Solar introduces Hurtado to Carlos Dávila (1887-1955), the ex-president of Chile.

The dictator of the Dominican Republic, , knows Daniel del Solar through his work as a journalist and visits New York to invite him to start a newspaper in Santo Domingo. During this time refugees fleeing the Spanish Civil War are in Santo Domingo creating a diverse intellectual atmosphere.

In Santo Domingo Hurtado and Del Solar live in a house surrounded by a sprawl of pine trees. They live there for a year during which Hurtado develops a close friendship with Trujillo’s daughter, Flor de Oro.

Hurtado learns she is pregnant with her first child.

Hurtado and Del Solar, c.1940
Hurtado and Del Solar, c.1940

“We were searching for these Olmec faces in the jungle, and, suddenly, they appeared. I remember taking my hat off to photograph them and immediately feeling chills in my body.”

1940

Flor de Oro tells Hurtado that her uncle Héctor Trujillo, a Dominican general, has requested a date with her. Getting the sense this request was more of a demand Hurtado decides to flee the country.

Flor de Oro warns Hurtado that if she attempts to leave the country directly, Trujillo’s brother will stop her. De Oro has a house on the border of Haiti, so Hurtado announces a visit as a cover to cross the border into Haiti. She travels by car and drives to the capital where she takes a boat back to New York. De Oro gives Hurtado a key to her house on Sutton Place, in New York’s Upper East Side, and instructs her to stay there until she returns to New York.

Del Solar and Hurtado find their own apartment on the second floor of the tallest building in the village. While pregnant, Hurtado is dissatisfied with the ‘butcher boy’ style maternity clothes and begins designing and sewing her own clothes, which becomes a lifelong practice.

In the early 1940s, Hurtado is creating biomorphic figurative drawings in graphite alongside establishing her signature ‘resist’ works – crayon and ink on paper depicting dancing, totemic figures. In the ‘resists’, black ink seeps into the negative space of the paper while the areas of waxy crayon resist the ink, creating a pattern of droplets. Hurtado works at the kitchen table while her family sleeps at night.

On June 13th, Hurtado gives birth to her first child, Daniel del Solar Jr. in a French Hospital in New York on the day Germany invaded Paris.

Hurtado, Playa Najayo, Dominican Republic
Hurtado, Playa Najayo, Dominican Republic, 1940

1941

Daniel del Solar meets as she’s looking for a place to live. Gilmour is a dancer in Martha Graham’s first dance group and half-sister to artist, designer, and architect, . Del Solar invites Gilmour to live with the family and take the bed in Daniel Jr.’s room. As there is only one bedroom, Hurtado and Del Solar sleep in the living room.

After voluntarily living in a Japanese internment camp in Arizona, Isamu Noguchi arrives in New York, where Gilmour introduces him to Hurtado. At this point Noguchi is well-known, having just finished his relief for Rockefeller Center. Hurtado and Noguchi become close friends.

During this time in New York Noguchi threw parties at his McDougal Alley studio where he suspended a highly polished metal figure, Miss Expanding Universe (1932), on the ceiling. Hurtado described the sculpture reaching its arms out hanging above the couch, looking as if it could fall at any moment. During this time, Hurtado befriends , , , , and , systems theorist , and filmmaker .

While Rufino Tamayo is teaching at the Dalton School in New York he stays with Hurtado and Del Solar. During the summers he returns to Mexico to be with his wife, Olga. While Tamayo is in New York he and Hurtado spend evenings talking about art. They play a game by naming something and deciding how to match that exact color. Hurtado and Tamayo become close friends.

Tamayo finishes his painting of three snarling red and black dogs, Animals (1941) now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art New York, and other works, at Hurtado’s kitchen table. Rufino Tamayo shows with whom he introduces to Hurtado. Matisse then introduces Hurtado to artists such as , , and . Hurtado meets in and attends a party hosted in her hospital room. Though confined to a hospital bed, Kahlo wears a traditional dress from Tijuana while entertaining guests. Hurtado describes the scene of the party in a hospital room as akin to surrealist theatre.

1942

On July 28th, Hurtado’s second son, Pablo Del Solar, is born in the same New York French hospital as Daniel Jr. was born. Hurtado, Del Solar, Daniel Jr., and Pablo move to the in the same building on Christopher Street.

Hurtado paints her first known work on canvas; an ethereal of two flattened deer, one drinking from a pond in a moon-lit landscape.

1944

Daniel Del Solar is hired as an editor at Time magazine in Washington D.C. and the family moves to Falls Church, Virginia. Del Solar and Hurtado divorce in 1944. Hurtado moves into their old apartment in New York.

Hurtado attends artist gatherings at New York automats where artists including , , , , and met to discuss art.

1945

Hurtado’s mother moves back to Venezuela from New York and Hurtado and her two young sons move into her mother’s apartment with her cousin, Herminia. Hurtado supports her family by creating window displays and murals for Lord and Taylor and creating freelance fashion illustrations for Condé Nast. While putting her portfolio together, Hurtado said she

Although a difficult time to be a single mother in her early twenties in New York with two young children, supporting her family gives Hurtado independence and freedom. She is able to invest in objects she loves such as a muslin representing the Battle of Little Bighorn, a pictograph by the Sioux Native Americans of South Dakota. Costing around one-hundred dollars, Hurtado puts five dollars down as a deposit and eventually is able to purchase it. One of Hurtado’s closest friends at the time is Ann Alpert Matta, first wife. Ann has young twins at the time (one of whom, is ). The two women help one another as mothers and friends.

In the mid-1940s, Hurtado continues to work in brightly-colored crayons and black ink. These ‘resists’ continue to engage totemic figures that dance with their arms to the sky. Hurtado later re-discovers these dancing figures in nature and archaeology, on the back of a butterfly in Venezuela and in drawings on the walls of the Lascaux Caves of France.

1946

Through Isamu Noguchi, Hurtado befriends the Sarabhais, a textile family from India with office in Rockefeller Center. Hurtado is close friends with , whose sister Mridula is involved with Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle for India’s independence.

Isamu Noguchi invites the Sarabhai family and Hurtado to visit a museum along with his friend, Wolfgang Paalen, an Austrian artist living in Mexico who is in New York for his exhibition at Galerie Nierendorf. After meeting, Paalen invites Luchita for coffee and they talk about anthropology and Native American cultures. During Paalen’s opening he tells Luchita to pick out a work as a gift.

Hurtado has dinner with Paalen and their mutual friend, , while he is in New York. Paalen invites Hurtado to Mexico to see the Olmec heads in La Venta and San Lorenzo. As her two sons are in summer camp, Hurtado accepts his invitation and her cousin Herminia watches her sons while she takes a train to Mexico City.

During this time Wolfgang Paalen is living in Mexico where he founded the Post-Surrealist publication DYN, with artists and . Other artists involved with the DYN journal include , , , , and , though Paalen produced the majority of the content under pseudonyms. The DYN journal seeks to break away from and the Surrealists, to define a new aesthetic and cultural order that looks to ancient Mesoamerican culture as a guide in a blend of art, science, and religion.

After taking the train to Mexico City, Hurtado arrives in La Venta on a two-seater learner’s plane, which she briefly flies, before the pilot lands in a cow pasture. While in La Venta they live on a house boat and sleep on the deck. They eat meals at the bow of the boat under a lantern. In the evenings the water is covered with moths that are attracted to the light, covering it like white ‘snow in heat’, as Hurtado describes it.

By day, the group rides horses into the jungle in search of the giant Olmec heads, cutting through the thick overgrowth with machetes as they walk their horses through. Eva Sulzer loans Hurtado her camera and she takes photographs of the Olmec heads. Hurtado’s photographs are later published in Cahiers d’Art, alongside a text by Paalen titled ‘The Oldest Face of the New World’ [‘Le plus ancient visage du nouveau monde’, issue 171, 1952].

Paalen has a passion for finding, buying, selling, and exchanging rare artifacts. When he hears of rare pre-Columbian Mayan textile weavings that are only produced in a school house in the mountains, he is determined to have them, so they stay overnight in the schoolhouse and sleep on benches. The group travels on to visit San Lorenzo, where Paalen lives, and there he proposes to Hurtado.

Hurtado returns to New York where she writes to Paalen agreeing to bring her two sons to come and live with him in Mexico. Upon arriving in Mexico, Paalen and Hurtado marry in a small village by candlelight.

Luchita Hurtado in Mexico, c.1940s
Luchita Hurtado in Mexico, c.1940s
Hurtado's photograph of a Colossal Olmec Head published in ‘Le Plus Ancien Visage du Nouveau Monde’, Cahiers d’Art, issue 171, 1952
Hurtado's photograph of a Colossal Olmec Head published in ‘Le Plus Ancien Visage du Nouveau Monde’, Cahiers d’Art, issue 171, 1952

1947

Paalen, Hurtado, Daniel Jr., and Pablo live in a house in San Ángel, Mexico City, where Paalen has his studio. They travel to Southern Mexico in search of pre-Columbian archaeology. As Hurtado describes,

Paalen and Hurtado travel to Acapulco and elsewhere searching for artifacts. One piece Paalen collects is from New Guinea, a shamanistic object Hurtado cannot bear to be around. Paalen sells it and Hurtado is relieved when it leaves their home.

During this time, Paalen is working to publish the final copy of the DYN journal, working so intensely he often made himself sick. Paalen’s studio is full of rare objects, including a colonial Christ made from papier-mâché and a dried whale penis Hurtado describes as looking like a boat. Hurtado works in the corner of Paalen’s studio, making small, colorful paintings and illustrations for New York magazines. Hurtado describes them, stating; Hurtado is hesitant to show her work to anyone, and turns her paintings onto their fronts when she leaves the studio. Pablo and Daniel Jr. attend a Swiss-German boarding school not far from Mexico City.

Hurtado becomes close friends with in Mexico City. Additionally, she spends time with painters , and , filmmaker , artist , photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo, dealer and ethnologist Julius Carlebach, and anthropologist Joseph Spinden.

Hurtado agrees to help transport artifacts from Mexico to the Brooklyn Museum for Spinden. Upon her arrival in the United States, police seize the luggage suspecting the artifacts contain drugs. Hurtado’s papers are temporarily revoked and she is not allowed to leave New York for months. During this time, she lives with Jeanne Reynal through whom she meets . Hurtado travels to Washington D.C. with a friend to regain her paperwork.

Luchita Hurtado
Luchita Hurtado, 1947
Hurtado and Paalen, Mexico
Hurtado and Paalen, Mexico, c. 1947
Hurtado, Mexico
Hurtado, Mexico, c. 1947

1948

In January Hurtado and Paalen travel to visit Gordon Onslow Ford and , who have left Mexico for San Francisco and encourage Wolfgang to move to San Francisco as well. Wolfgang Paalen and Gordon Onslow Ford were previously involved in the 1930s Parisian circle of Chilean-born Surrealist painter, Roberto Matta, while Jacqueline Johnson was regarded highly in Parisian Surrealist circles. Johnson, Onslow Ford, and Paalen moved to Mexico to escape the war and it was there, in 1942, Paalen started publishing the DYN journal.

During their visit, they meet . On their way to San Francisco, Hurtado and Paalen stop in Los Angeles to visit in his Hollywood studio, where he takes Luchita’s portrait.

After Paalen and Hurtado return to Mexico, Hurtado’s son, Pablo, is diagnosed with bulbar polio and lives in an iron lung. Only a few days after being diagnosed, Pablo passes away on July 1st at the age of five.
Luchita Hurtado with Daniel and Pablo Del Solar in San Ángel, Mexico
Luchita Hurtado with Daniel and Pablo Del Solar in San Ángel, Mexico, c. 1948

1949

In November Mullican visits Paalen and Hurtado in Mexico.

With a desire to leave Mexico, the place where her child passed away, Hurtado and Paalen move to Mill Valley, California. Onslow Ford helps them purchase a three-story grey nineteenth-century house surrounded by redwoods just outside of San Francisco. Hurtado senses that the new house contains bad spirits and she experiences strange activity such as a room suddenly filling with the smell of flowers, or seeing her cat, named Mouse, startled by an invisible figure in the stairway.

At the age of nine Daniel Jr. relearns English after speaking only Spanish in Mexico. After buying the house Paalen, Hurtado, and Daniel go to New York while Gordon Onslow Ford and Jacqueline Humphries move in to watch over it until the family returns in June. Upon the family’s return, Onslow Ford and Humphries go back to their house in San Francisco.

After living with fellow artist , Lee Mullican is looking for a place to live. In 1949 he moves into the top floor of the Mill Valley house. Mullican had just discovered a painting technique which became his signature, using a pallet knife to apply paint rather than a brush, which came about when he picked up Jack Stauffacher’s printing knife and began painting with it, forming standardized lines on the canvas.

As neither Paalen nor Hurtado drive, Paalen buys a car and Mullican drives them around. Onslow Ford, Humphries, Paalen, Hurtado, and Mullican would host large dinners at the Mill Valley house and spend hours playing Surrealist games.

The Dynaton group is formed by Paalen, Onslow Ford and Lee Mullican, and they collectively work towards an exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, planned for 1951. The ‘Dynaton’ group is named by Paalen after the Greek for ‘the possible’. Paalen keeps his studio in a small room above the house and Luchita works on her paintings in the dining room.

In San Francisco, Hurtado befriends Paalen’s friends, and . She also befriends . Hurtado spends time with art historian , poet and philosopher .

While not considered a member of the Dynaton collective, Hurtado works separately on her paintings at night after everyone goes to sleep.

Gordon Onslow Ford, Jacqueline Johnson, Lee Mullican, Luchita Hurtado, and Wolfgang Paalen, Mill Valley, California
Gordon Onslow Ford, Jacqueline Johnson, Lee Mullican, Luchita Hurtado, and Wolfgang Paalen, Mill Valley, California, c. 1950

1951

The Dynaton exhibition takes place at The San Francisco Museum of Art.

After losing her son to polio Hurtado yearns to have another child however Paalen does not want children. He moves back to Paris where he makes amends with Breton.

Hurtado and Lee Mullican become a couple.

The Dynaton group disassembles and exits San Francisco just as the Bay Area Figurative Movement is emerging. Gordon and Jacqueline stay in San Francisco, although they sell their home and live on a ferry boat with Jean Varda and Alan Watts.

Mullican, Daniel Jr., and a Hurtado, pregnant with her third son, travel through New Mexico to Texas where they part ways, Mullican going to his home state of Oklahoma where he has exhibitions, and Hurtado and Daniel Jr. to Venezuela where Hurtado plans to have the baby.

Hurtado’s sister in Venezuela tells her that their mother would be upset if she arrives pregnant and alone. Hurtado considers going back to New York where she has friends and family, but without winter clothes she decides to return to California, this time to Los Angeles.

Hurtado has two close friends in Los Angeles at the time, whom she knew from New York, and and . Hurtado originally met Sheila and Giles Healey in the jungle in Mexican while with Paalen. Sheila encourages Hurtado to come to Los Angeles.

After arriving, Hurtado gets a motel room on the beach at Roy’s Motel for her and Daniel to stay in while she looks for an apartment. Just after seeing Daniel off to his first day of school Hurtado goes into labor and calls Sheila who takes her to the hospital where she gives birth to her son Matthew. In the hospital, Hurtado looks in the newspaper for a place to live and finds a furnished apartment in Santa Monica. Without seeing the apartment, over the phone Hurtado settles with the landlord that she and her two sons will move in just after she leaves the hospital.

Hurtado learns how to drive, enabling her to locate a more permanent home. She finds a 1926 bungalow in need of some repair, but located by the ocean and with a garden, she, Daniel, and Matthew move into their new home in Santa Monica.

Paalen and Hurtado attend the opening of Dynaton, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Paalen and Hurtado attend the opening of Dynaton, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1951

1952

In January Mullican returns from Oklahoma. Hurtado and Mullican quickly partake in Santa Monica Canyon’s social scene, spending time with , , , , , , and .

1953

Hurtado and Mullican participate in Ray and Charles Eames’ film, “Bread – The Movie” (1953).

In Santa Monica, Hurtado works as a seamstress, assistant, and model for , making designer costumes for the Sadler’s Wells performing arts theatre in London.

Hurtado exhibits her resist works at Paul Kantor Gallery in Los Angeles.

1954

Encouraged by a friend, Hurtado auditions for the movie The Egyptian (1954), directed by Michael Curtiz, and is cast as a court lady. She recalls the Surrealist scene of watching the cast members from The Egyptian eating lunch with the cast of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954).

Hurtado with her son Matt Mullican
Hurtado with her son Matt Mullican, c. 1954

1955

Mullican is working with improvisational theatre group ‘Instant Theater’ in Hollywood. Hurtado collaborates with Rosenthal on a film performance of Hurtado slowly taking pins out of her hair.

In the 1950s Hurtado continues her ‘resist’ series. The works range from figurative centaur-like creatures that merge with abstracted forms and landscapes. Hurtado expands on the materials she uses to render her figurative-abstractions to include oil paints. In this period she also begins painting self-portraits including depictions of birth from her perspective, a point of view that she would return to throughout her oeuvre.

Hurtado’s sister Mary visits her in Santa Monica and persuades her to visit her mother in Venezuela. Hurtado travels to Caracas with Matthew while Daniel Jr., who is starting high school, stays in California with Mullican

While in Venezuela Hurtado’s sister’s husband arranges for Hurtado to work at a conference in Caracas. During a visit to the Natural History Museum, a butterfly flies in through the open doors. To Hurtado’s surprise, the butterfly’s markings resemble the totemic figures she is painting at the time, and which have featured in her drawings since New York. While trying to find work in Venezuela, Hurtado creates ads for Polar beer on spec.

1956

In the spring of 1956 Hurtado leaves Venezuela to visit New York for a few of months before returning to California. At the age of five, Matthew relearns English after switching to Spanish in Venezuela. Hurtado and Matthew return to Santa Monica.

Hurtado states;

1957

On February 27th, Hurtado and Mullican marry.

1959

Mullican receives a Fulbright Guggenheim Grant decides to go to Rome for a year, bringing his family with him. Mullican, Hurtado, and Matthew drive across the country to New York, where Mullican has an exhibition. As they are traveling through New York they come across Daniel Jr. hitchhiking his way to Harvard and give him a ride.

Hurtado, Mullican, and Matthew take a boat from New York to Africa. They buy insects in Casablanca, Morocco and continue their travels, eventually arriving in Rome in autumn and live in their apartment from October to June. Mullican secures a studio near the Campo de’ Fiori. During their stay, La Dolce Vita (1960) is being filmed and Mullican and Hurtado meet Italian film director Federico Fellini.

While in Rome, the family receives an American Express message from Daniel Jr. that Wolfgang Paalen has died.

In their Rome apartment, Mullican and Hurtado entertain , , Willem De Kooning, and Isamu Noguchi, who stops in Rome while on his way to Israel.

During a visit to the Galleria Borghese in Rome, Hurtado encounters Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne (1622). She is struck by the image of the woman transforming into a tree. This allegory influences her drawings and paintings of trees as self-portraits.

In summer the family camps around Europe, following prehistoric sites from Altamira, to Lascaux, to Carnac, and Brittany. They then travel on to London, Paris, Switzerland, and Italy.

Luchita Hurtado, Matt Mullican, and Lee Mullican, Rome
Luchita Hurtado, Matt Mullican, and Lee Mullican, Rome, c. 1959

“I began to think about the words “I am”.
I am who? I am what? I am the moon? Who am I!
What comes before? What comes after?”

1962

Hurtado’s fourth son John is born.

In October, Hurtado, Mullican, Matt, and John travel to San Francisco for an exhibition of Mullican’s work.

In the early 1960s, Hurtado is working with brightly-colored inks on paper. The saturated pigments pool and bleed outwards, suggesting defined, muscular bodies. Although sometimes a solo figure, many of the ink drawings depict a duo or group of bodies interacting.

1961

Hurtado secures a studio for herself in the Santa Monica Canyon. She is thrilled to have, for the first time, a studio with a door that closes.

Mullican and Hurtado meet instrument maker and composer .

Hurtado, California
Hurtado, California, 1962

1965

‘During the 1960s, Hurtado continues portraits of herself in mirrors and looking downward from her point of view. She later remarks,

Hurtado with her sons Matt and John Mullican, Taos, New Mexico
Hurtado with her sons Matt and John Mullican, Taos, New Mexico, c. 1965

1966

Hurtado attends Mullican’s exhibition in New York.

Hurtado with Lee and John Mullican
Hurtado with Lee and John Mullican, c. 1966
Hurtado with sculpture by Ernest Trova, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Hurtado with sculpture by Ernest Trova, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, c. 1967

1968

In the late 1960s Hurtado lays claim to a female subject position as she paints directly from her perspective, either looking downward at the landscape of her body, or up at the sky. She says,

UCLA puts together an exchange program with the University of Chile, Santiago, to which Mullican applies. He is awarded the position and the family moves to Chile. They stop in Venezuela to visit Hurtado’s family.

In Chile the family looks for a place to live. With no luck, they settle for an apartment while continuing to look for a house for the family of four. After months of searching the family secures a home and a studio for Mullican. John and Matt are enrolled in an American school. Mullican has an exhibition with the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.
Hurtado uses a closet in the house as a studio to continue her series of downward-looking, or as she refers to them, her ‘I Am’ self-portraits. The works made in Chile can be identified in some of her figurative paintings with a beam of light cast across the floor from a crack in the closet’s door. The portraits of her body later evolve into landscapes in her ‘Sky Skin’ series.
Hurtado, Venezuela
Hurtado, Venezuela, 1968
Hurtado in her studio
Hurtado in her studio, c. 1968

1969

On the way back to Los Angeles, the family travels to Peru, Machu Pichu, and Ecuador before returning to Santa Monica.

It wasn’t until I joined this women’s consciousness movement that I started to show people my work and not turn my paintings toward the wall.

1970

From February to March Hurtado is an artist-in-residence with the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in New Mexico where she makes two series of lithographs.

In the 1960s and 1970s Mullican and Hurtado spend summers in New Mexico, visiting Lee’s parents in Chickasha, Oklahoma. Mullican and Hurtado fall in love with the natural surroundings of Taos and return often until deciding to buy land in 1970.

In the 1970s Hurtado has more time to dedicate to painting. and creates her ‘Sky Skin’ series, inspired by the landscape of Taos.

Although an admirer of Breton, Hurtado intentionally critiques the Surrealist movement she has been influenced by, inserting a female voice as subject, rather than muse, of Surrealist desire. In her own words, she explains

1971

Hurtado’s friend puts together a lunch on March 1st, inviting women artists from the Los Angeles area. Many of the artists in attendance don’t know that the others were artists and only know them as the partners of male artists. After introducing herself to the group as Luchita Mullican, her friend, , calls from across the room, ‘Luchita what? Luchita replies, ‘Luchita Hurtado!’ Hurtado is energized by this shift in power and finds it different from how Surrealist women talked about themselves in the 1940s and 50s. During the lunch the women discuss their different feminist, educational, and consciousness-raising projects.

With a desire to contribute Hurtado records the names and contact information of the women present and after the lunch she continues to record as many other women artists in Los Angeles as possible. Hurtado then organizes and hosts the first meeting of the ‘Los Angeles Council of Women Artists’ at her home. The group includes artists , , , , and , among others.

Hurtado later remarks:

In June the Los Angeles Council of Women Artists issues a report on the representation of women artists in Los Angeles museums stating: ‘The Los Angeles Council of Women Artists is an amalgam of women painters, sculptors, art historians, critics, teachers, film-makers, craftswomen, graphic artists, curators, collectors, and industrial designers. As women artists we are not seeking token acceptance into museums or galleries which have not questioned the inherent inequities in the present structure of the art world. We want to help change that structure, so that it will be more responsive to its constituency, half of which is women. We want the public to understand that our efforts are part of the efforts of women throughout this country who are working to give full, meaningful status to women in every area of our society.’

Many of the women involved in the first group would later form the Woman’s Building and Womanspace in Los Angeles.

Members of the Los Angeles Council of Women Artists, clockwise from left: Alexis Smith, Ann McCoy, Barbara Haskell, Janice Brown, Avilda Moses, Barbara Munger, Lois Miller, Susan Titelman, Vija Celmins, and Luchita Hurtado, Los Angeles,
Members of the Los Angeles Council of Women Artists, clockwise from left: Alexis Smith, Ann McCoy, Barbara Haskell, Janice Brown, Avilda Moses, Barbara Munger, Lois Miller, Susan Titelman, Vija Celmins, and Luchita Hurtado, Los Angeles,, c. 1971

1972

Hurtado is included in the group exhibition at the Long Beach Museum of Art curated by artist Judy Chicago and curator Dextra Frankel.

1973

Hurtado is included in the group exhibition, ‘Women and Art’ at the John B. Davis Gallery at Idaho State University.

The Los Angeles Council of Women Artists opens Womanspace, a gallery on Venice Boulevard that produces exhibitions, events, and publications on women artists.

Mullican and Hurtado’s home in Taos, New Mexico is complete. Visitors to the house include Ann Matta, and her son Gordon Matta Clark, Isamu Noguchi, and artist Sam Francis. During this time Ailes Gilmour moves to Santa Fe as well.

Hurtado works from her studio off the Pacific Coast Highway, experimenting with materials. Fashioning her own ink ‘brushes’ as a way to paint as quickly as she can, she explains: ‘To achieve quickness, the evenness, and length of stroke, I needed large canvases, I rigged up bottles with nozzles that became the brushes I needed. I was having a show at Grandview in six months and I began to paint word paintings toward it. I painted large paintings, all messages, some right side up, some on their side, some cut, set apart, as life does, and sewed together again. Some were in layers atop the other.’ 84 In swift motions, Hurtado makes condensed lines that sometimes form abstracted words and phrases in Spanish and English such as ‘SOY’ or ‘I AM’. Pushing the series further, she then cuts some of the canvases into strips, rearranges the strips, and sews them back together, further abstracting the language.

Hurtado and John Mullican, Taos, New Mexico
Hurtado and John Mullican, Taos, New Mexico, 1973
Hurtado and Mullican's home in Taos, New Mexico
Hurtado and Mullican's home in Taos, New Mexico, c. 1973

1974

In February Hurtado has her first solo exhibition at the Woman’s Building in Los Angeles in the Grandview One gallery for which she presents her linear language series.

Hurtado in front of 'Self Portrait', photograph by Matt Mullican, c.1973
Hurtado in front of 'Self Portrait', photograph by Matt Mullican, c.1973

1975

In the mid-70s Hurtado makes her series of white paintings on raw canvas that engage the language of words such as ‘YOU’, ‘EVE’, ‘ADAM’, and ‘WOMB’.

1976

From February to March Hurtado visits New York for Matt Mullican’s first New York exhibition. She stays with her friend, Mia Agee and spends time with Isamu Noguchi and Ailes Gilmore.

In the late 70s Hurtado creates a series of brightly-colored ‘moth light’ works with oil paint on paper and canvas. She fills the edges with different hues, leaving the center white with the aim to ‘give off’ enough light to attract an insect.

Hurtado in her Santa Monica Canyon studio
Hurtado in her Santa Monica Canyon studio

1978

In the late 70s Hurtado continues her ‘Sky Skin’ series with feathers weightlessly floating in bright blue skies.

1979

In November Hurtado and Mullican travel to India where Mullican is curating an exhibition for UCLA.

“Because a day without seeing a tree is a wasted day.”

1980

Mullican and Hurtado leave Santa Monica to spend the summer in New Mexico where Mullican is included in a group exhibition. In August, they travel to Chickasha, Oklahoma. On the way back to Santa Monica Hurtado visits the Grand Canyon for the first time.

In August Mullican, Hurtado, and John travel to New York for Mullican’s exhibition with Galerie Schreiner. They stay with Ailes Gilmour. While in New York, Hurtado goes with John to the Museum of Natural History to see a feather exhibition. Hurtado describes the scene at the Natural History Museum:

Hurtado also attends a screening of a documentary about Isamu Noguchi at Rockefeller Center. She visits Leo Castelli who she hasn’t seen since living in New York in the 1940s. Hurtado and Mullican return to Santa Monica in the autumn. Hurtado travels to Cambridge, Massachusetts to visit John at school.

Luchita Hurtado at the Grand Canyon
Luchita Hurtado at the Grand Canyon, c. 1980

1981–1989

In March, Hurtado and Mullican travel to New York for Mullican’s exhibition. Hurtado takes a series of photographs of Isamu Noguchi and Buckminster Fuller at Noguchi’s opening.

In the 1980s Mullican and Hurtado travel extensively for Mullican’s exhibitions and visiting family and friends in New York, San Francisco, Oklahoma, Texas, Hawaii, England, France and India. Mullican and Hurtado spend most summers in Taos and autumns in New York.

In February 1988, Hurtado and Mullican travel to New York and go to India in March. After returning to Santa Monica in April, artist and curator helps Hurtado find a studio on the second floor of the Santa Monica Barker Hangar. When Mullican’s UCLA faculty studio is no longer available, he moves into this studio.

Isamu Noguchi and Luchita Hurtado, Noguchi Museum, New York City
Isamu Noguchi and Luchita Hurtado, Noguchi Museum, New York City, c. 1981
Hurtado doing tai chi in Shelia Healy's garden, United Kingdom
Hurtado doing tai chi in Shelia Healy's garden, United Kingdom, 1981
Luchita Hurtado
Luchita Hurtado, c. 1982

“As artists we should shout out about the most important issues around us.”

1990–1999

In the 1990s, Mullican and Hurtado continue to travel, visiting New York, Taos, Brussels, Paris, London, Zurich, Berlin, Spain, and Vienna. They continue to visit their home in Taos every summer, entertaining artists such as Vija Celmins, , , and .

1991

Hurtado holds a two-person exhibition with Nancy Romero at the Transamerica Galleries in Los Angeles titled ‘West by SouthWest’ (3 December 1990 – 25 January 1991).

1994

Hurtado’s ‘Sky Skin’ paintings are included in a group exhibition with the Carnegie Art Museum in Oxnard, California. Curated by Frank Romero, the exhibition is titled ‘The Mystical in Art: Chicano/Latino Painting’ (16 April – 26 June 1994).

1998

On July 8th, Lee Mullican passes away.

Hurtado with Richard Serra's 'Switch' at Gagosian Gallery
Hurtado with Richard Serra's 'Switch' at Gagosian Gallery, c. 1999–2000

“Grown-ups always say to children, “Go out and play.” Well, you start talking to yourself at a certain age in life, and you find yourself giving yourself directions, like somebody saying “Go play, go paint.”

2000

In the early 2000s Hurtado travels to London, Oxford Barcelona, and New York. She continues to spend summers in Taos with her sons joining her and travels to New York most autumns.

2004

Hurtado is included in the group exhibition, ‘Santa Monica Originals’ at the Santa Monica Airport, curated by Bruria Finkel (11 December 2004 – 5 February 2005).

2007

Hurtado is included in the group exhibition ‘Women Artists of Southern California Then and Now’ at Track 16 in Los Angeles, curated by Bruria Finkel (2 – 30 June 2007).

I am grateful to be an artist and to be where I am, but for any other reason than that it’s been a marvelous trip.

2012

Hurtado’s oldest son, Daniel del Solar Jr. passes away in Oakland, California.

2016

A solo exhibition of work from 1942-1952 is organized by Park View / Paul Soto, Los Angeles (12 November 2016 – 7 January 2017).

2017

A solo exhibition of Hurtado’s work, ‘Figures and Icons’, is organized by the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California (16 November 2017 – 4 January 2018).

2018

Hurtado is included in group exhibitions including ‘Made in L.A. 2018’ at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, curated by Anne Ellegood and Erin Christovale (3 June – 2 September 2018); ‘Summer Nocturne: Works on Paper from the 1970s’ at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara (10 June – 23 September 2018); ‘Painting: Now and Forever, Part III’ at Matthew Marks Gallery, New York (28 June – 17 August 2018); The Gallery @ Michael’s, Santa Monica (27 January – 31 March 2018); and ‘Gallery Share’ at Hannah Hoffman Gallery, Los Angeles (4 – 31 March 2018).

Luchita Hurtado, 2020 © The Estate of Luchita Hurtado, Photo: Fredrik Nilsen
Luchita Hurtado, 2020 © The Estate of Luchita Hurtado, Photo: Fredrik Nilsen

2019–2020

Hurtado’s solo exhibition ‘I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn’ opens at the Serpentine Galleries, London.

Hurtado continues to work with the themes of language and nature in her new paintings. What’s most important in her work is the planet, natural elements, and the environment.

Luchita Hurtado passed away August 13th, 2020.

Luchita Hurtado in the Studio, Photo: Oresti Tsonopoulos
Luchita Hurtado in the Studio, Photo: Oresti Tsonopoulos, 2019
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