Luchita Hurtado: I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn review

Art
4 out of 5 stars
Luchita Hurtado: I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn review
Luchita Hurtado 'Untitled' (1969) Image courtesy of the artist. Photo Credit: Jeff McLane

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

The female gaze is a funny thing. Three little words used to describe everything from lesbian erotic fiction to the abstract expressionism of Lee Krasner. What’s missing from all this talk about ‘the gaze’ is any sense of a physical human being doing the looking. Enter: Luchita Hurtado.

The star attractions of the 98-year-old artist’s first solo exhibition in a public institution (read that slowly because it’s a freaking crime) are around a dozen paintings looking downwards at the floor and including parts of the artist’s body (breasts, belly, knee and toes). This is the female gaze placed back inside a body. It’s fleshy, it’s whole, it’s solid: and the results are stunning.

Starting with earthy-coloured crayon works from the 1940s and ending with ecologically focused acrylics completed earlier this year, the multi-sectioned exhibition demonstrates how Hurtado’s style has changed. If there is a constant, it’s how her perspective – how she views shapes, colours, limbs, the world – is always slightly different, slightly skewed, from what you’re used to seeing.

One section captures the perspective of a birthing mother, the little baby’s head peeking through the gap in her thighs. Another contains the view of the sky as glimpsed while peering directly upwards through a section of rock. And, in one of the middle galleries, a set of abstract oils resemble a smashed-up architectural mess of stairwells, columns, alcoves and arches.

Considering how Hurtado has been ignored, it’s understandable that the Serpentine has opted for an overview of her entire career and to display as much as possible. But as an exhibition it leads to emotional-response overload; each part could be a show in itself. It is, however, interesting to see her evolution as an artist. The show’s title, ‘I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn’, could refer to Hurtado’s artistic life: constant cycles of reinvention, rediscovery and rebirth. Look, then look again.

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