LOS ANGELES (AP) – Celebrated painter Luchita Hurtado, whose body of work came to light late in her life, died Thursday evening at her home in Santa Monica of natural causes, The Los Angeles Times reported. She was 99.
Her death was confirmed by a representative at her gallery, Hauser & Wirth.
Hurtado’s death came six months after the opening of a major career survey at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in February, “Luchita Hurtado: I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn.”
Jennifer King, an associate curator at the museum, said narratives about Hurtado’s globe-trotting, bohemian life, combined with the late rediscovery of her work, can often overwhelm her artistic accomplishments.
“She was a very original artist,” King said. “She was a formal innovator. She was an incredible colorist.”
The L.A. survey, which originated at London’s Serpentine Galleries last year, featured more than 120 works from different eras.
Key among her works are a series of paintings from the late 1960s and 1970s rendering aspects of women’s bodies as surreal landscapes and others featuring the nude female form as viewed from a woman’s perspective.
Hurtado’s late fame came as the result of a small exhibition of her paintings in 2016 reviewed by Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight.
“Hurtado’s work was multicultural before multicultural was cool,” Knight wrote.
Hurtado was married to notable painters Wolfgang Paalen and Lee Mullican, and her friends included key 20th century art figures such as Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo, Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi and French surrealist Marcel Duchamp.
Hurtado was born Luisa Amelia Garcia Rodriguez Hurtado on Nov. 28, 1920, in Maiquetia, Venezuela. When she was 8, the family immigrated to New York City.
Hurtado focused on art while she was a student at Washington Irving High School, which was the extent of her formal training.
“I never told my mother that I was taking art – she thought I was taking dress-making,” Hurtado said.
She had a short-lived marriage to Chilean journalist Daniel del Solar and later, through her various art world connections, she met Paalen, an Austrian theorist and painter.
By the 1940s, she was living in Mexico with Paalen and her two children during a time she later described as “very bohemian,” socializing with artists including Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington and Oklahoma-born painter Mullican.
The death of a son from polio resulted in a rift between Paalen and Hurtado. She returned to the U.S. and ultimately settled in California for the rest of her life.
In California she reconnected with Mullican. They married, had two children and remained together for 40 years until his death in 1998.
Speaking with curator and writer Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer about her desire to make art, Hurtado said, “It was a need, like brushing your teeth.”
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