Luchita Hurtado: I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn

Serpentine Sackler Gallery 23 May — 20 Oct 2019 Free

The Serpentine presented the first UK solo exhibition of works by Luchita Hurtado.

The exhibition traced the trajectory of Hurtado’s expansive, 80-year career and reveals the scale, experimentation and playfulness of her impressive oeuvre.

Throughout her career, Luchita Hurtado has created an extensive body of paintings, drawings and prints that bear witness to a dedicated and intense engagement with the world around her. I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn was her first solo exhibition in a public institution and follows the trajectory of her practice, from her earliest surviving work of the late 1930s, through early experiments with abstraction in the 1940s and 50s, to later works that foreground the body as their starting point. The plurality of styles and techniques that mark Hurtado’s 80 years of working speak to the geographies and events that have shaped her life. Born in 1920 in Maiquetía, Venezuela, she emigrated to the United States in 1928 and later travelled extensively in Mexico, before settling in Santa Monica, California, in 1951, where she has resided ever since.

This chronological survey of Hurtado’s work moved anti-clockwise around the space, providing successive encounters with distinct bodies of work and revealing the artist’s recurring exploration of the boundaries where the self meets the world. Figures touch, embrace and dance throughout Hurtado’s paintings and drawings from the 1940s and 1950s; the artist’s body becomes a frame and a landscape in the late 1960s and 1970s; and a group of paintings from the early 1970s appear to be abstract, but are in fact composed from fragments of letters and words, attempts at translation and connection.

The newest works in the exhibition, completed during the past 12 months and exhibited here for the first time, revealed Hurtado’s continuing relevance to contemporary environmental and political issues in their bold slogans, their echoed forms of figures and trees, and references to the human life cycle. From a commitment to ecological and feminist activism throughout her life to the act of designing and making her own clothes, Hurtado’s intimate and mystical visual language uniquely captures our responsibility to the natural world, as it has persisted through the seismic changes of the last century.