The work Luchita Hurtado has produced quietly over the course of eighty years has been largely defined by both her multicultural context, and the mining of her own experience. Most recently, Hurtado has taken birthing and the womb as her subject, once again treating the female body as landscape as she explores the ways in which humans are spiritually and viscerally connected to one another and to the natural world. At age 98, she continues to push her own boundaries, experimenting with new processes and materials. With her most recent portfolio, Hurtado returns to printmaking, which she had only briefly explored during a residency with Tamarind Lithography Workshop in 1970.
Her latest series, ‘Untitled (Birth Print)’ (2019) is a collaboration with master printer Jacob Samuel, exploring the intimate imagery of childbirth while flirting with abstraction. Since 1988, Samuel has maintained a practice centered on traditional etching processes with a diverse group of contemporary artists. Though he has historically invited artists to join him in his own studio to make prints, creating a portable aquaint box allowed him to extend his expertise and to develop relationships with artists around the world with an interest in the process. Samuel, who came out of retirement to work with Hurtado, writes, ‘Luchita showed me some recent paintings from her ‘Birth’ series that had beautifully nuanced tonal passages and I thought that white-ground aquatint could be a technique that could achieve similar effects. I prepared plates and she took up the brush and painted with the white ground mixture in a most natural way.’
White-ground (or soap-ground) aquatint is an intaglio print technique in which, in its most basic form, the artist paints on a metal plate with an acid-resistant, soap-like mixture before submerging the plate in an acid bath, etching the exposed areas into the plate. The result is a plate with an image ready for printing; the exposed lines will hold ink and print black. The porous nature of the acid-resistant mixture allows for tonal variation. Hurtado’s works in this series play with the idea of white ‘ground,’ exploring the effects of positive and negative on the reading of body-as-landscape or body-as-abstraction.
Luchita showed me some recent paintings from her ‘Birth’ series that had beautifully nuanced tonal passages...I prepared plates and she took up the brush and painted with the white ground mixture in a most natural way.
For Hurtado, the human body is inextricably linked to nature and the universe, and she conveys this point of view in her work through unexpected juxtapositions: her own body’s soft corporeal lines rendered from above as though looking down at herself, set against the hard-edged geometric patterns of a Southwestern rug; or an upward view of the cosmos framed by this bodily view, which becomes a topography of dunes, hills, and canyons. Although she has been associated with various artistic movements including Surrealism, Dynaton, and Mexican muralists, Hurtado has always maintained a singular practice combining abstraction, mysticism, corporality, and landscape to articulate her unprecedented view of the world.
– Luchita Hurtado’s ‘Untitled (Birth Print)’ series, published by Hauser & Wirth Editions, was featured at the 2019 IFPDA Fine Art Print Fair and in Hauser & Wirth Editions Catalogue, Volume II.