For more than seventy years, Los Angeles-based artist Luchita Hurtado has merged abstraction and representation with mystical effect, exploring connections between the body and its larger context – nature, the environment, and the cosmos – in an effort to express universality and transcendence. ‘Dark Years,’ Hurtado’s first solo exhibition with Hauser & Wirth, focuses on the artist’s early works from the 1940s to the 1950s, a period defined by prolific experimentation. Comprising of crayon and ink paintings on board and paper, graphite and ink drawings, and oil paintings on canvas, the works on view range stylistically from surrealist figuration and geometric patterning to biomorphic forms executed with expressive acuity. Together, they underscore the vast scope of Hurtado’s early expression and illuminate the origins of an artistic output that would continue to evolve for decades to come.
Hurtado’s multicultural life and career reflect in the eclectic mediums and formal techniques of her oeuvre. Born in Maiquetia, Vargas, Venezuela in 1920, she emigrated to the United States in 1928, settling in New York where she attended classes at the Art Students League. In the mid-forties, Hurtado freelanced as a fashion illustrator for Condé Nast and window designer for Lord & Taylor. She relocated to Mexico City in the late 1940s then moved to San Francisco Bay the following decade, making frequent visits to Taos, and ultimately settling in Los Angeles where she continues to make work today. Although associated with a vast network of internationally renowned artists and intellectuals throughout the decades, including Mexican muralists, Surrealists, and members of Dynaton, Hurtado’s practice always remained an independent – and until recent years, largely private – pursuit.