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Great Immigrants

Luchita Hurtado
Painter | Time 100 for 2019
Born in:
Venezuela

Luisa Amelia García Rodriguez Hurtado was born in 1920 in Venezuela and moved to New York City with her mother, a seamstress, when she was eight. Hurtado’s mother expected her daughter to follow her career path, but the aspiring painter secretly enrolled in classes at the Art Students League. Over the course of three marriages — to Chilean journalist Daniel del Solar, Austrian painter Wolfgang Paalen, and American painter Lee Mullican — Hurtado lived in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Italy, San Francisco, New Mexico, and Los Angeles. She got to know and was admired by many well-known artists, including Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, Marcel Duchamp, Judy Chicago, and Isamu Noguchi. But although she participated in some exhibitions, her work, which mixes abstract forms, indigenous patterns, and the female body, was not widely known. As she told the New York Times, “I always felt shy of it. I didn’t feel comfortable with people looking at my work. There was a time when women really didn’t show their work.” While Hurtado raised her children and nurtured her husbands’ careers, she continued to paint. After the passing of Lee Mullican in 1998, to whom Hurtado was married for four decades, a trove of her paintings was accidentally discovered by the director of Mullican’s estate, and Hurtado started exhibiting again. Her work was featured in the Hammer Museum’s Made in L.A. 2018 biennial, where she was celebrated as a surprise breakout star. In 2019 the nonagenarian had one of her best years yet: she was named to Time’s 100 most influential list and had her first museum retrospective, Luchita Hurtado: I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn, at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London. Mexico City’s Museo Tamayo will host a retrospective of her work in 2020, when Hurtado turns 100. Hurtado’s art remains vibrant, relevant, deeply connected to the world around her, and ever experimental. As she explained in Time: “I never said no to life. I have a responsibility to the world, to my planet.”