Luchita Hurtado (1920 – 2020)

August 18, 2020

I remember seeing several paintings by Luchita Hurtado at the Hammer Museum in 2018 and not being alone in my admiration. Her work has that kind of charisma that can make total strangers feel relaxed enough to share their reactions to it with a casual exuberance that normally might betray one as naive or unsophisticated. In particular, I recollect one of the young people next to me was an artist from St. Louis, and she unabashedly said that she hoped to be that good an artist some day.

In taking note of Hurtado’s death this past week, news articles remarked on how long it took Hurtado time to get what little recognition she received, She herself understood the problem of her approach to imaginative work: “”Maybe the people who were looking at what I was doing had no eye for the future and, therefore, no eye for the present.” I remember telling someone that I wrote poems with a sense of what people in the future might want to read in order to learn what it was like to live at the present moment. My guess is that Hurtado and I are not talking about the same exact intentionality, though that might seem to be the case because of our use of temporal displacement. Her statement infers a more profound sense of imaginative context. Part of that context is the continued presence of the Woman’s Building in the cultural and social evolution of Los Angeles. For those who need to see the future of the past, I would urge you to visit the website of Woman’s Buildings archives at the website of the Otis College of Art and Design.

Quick quiz: read the first paragraph again. What did you imagine as the racial identity of the “young artist” I cited? The following obituary contains photographs that will give you a sense of Hurtado’s contribution to “Made in L.A.”