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Posts Tagged ‘venezuela’

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Photo: Laure Joliet
Important shows are proliferating for 98-year-old artist Luchita Hurtado. “Luchita Hurtado. Dark Years” — was on view at New York’s Hauser & Wirth gallery earlier this year, and more exhibits are scheduled around the world.

In my after-kids career, I had jobs in which my colleagues were nearly always decades younger than me. I didn’t want to tell anyone my age. If the workplace celebrated birthdays, I didn’t want anyone to know when mine was. On Facebook, my date of birth is still visible only to me (and Facebook, alas).

So I loved what this artist who’s getting big shows at 98 had to say about revealing her age.

‘The older I get, the more I want to tell you how old I am,’ the 98-year-old artist Luchita Hurtado says, gesturing toward the paintings in her Los Angeles studio. ‘I’m showing off. Sometimes I feel that I’m really overdoing it.’

Maybe if I get to 98 with all my marbles, I will feel the same.

Anna Furman writes at the New York Times, “On a cloudless afternoon in October, I meet the artist Luchita Hurtado, 98, in her Santa Monica home studio — a sand-colored three-story building a 20-minute walk from the Pacific Ocean. Inside, her riotously colorful paintings — in which genderless figures transform into trees — animate the walls of her compact 145-square-foot studio, interspersed with dried leaves and a framed rare butterfly. …

“She recounts searching for Olmec colossal heads from a two-seater plane above San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán; camping at the Lascaux Cave in southern France before the site closed permanently to the public in 1963; posing for Man Ray, and forging friendships with Frida Kahlo, Isamu Noguchi and Leonora Carrington. …

“Hurtado has recently experienced a rise to fame that has been thrilling to witness — albeit maddening in its lateness. … In her expansive oil paintings, ink-based drawings, fabric collages and patterned garments, Hurtado explores what she sees as the interconnectedness of all beings. Her paintings from the ’70s [represent] women as sacred beings, powerful subjects of their own lives. …

“Born in the seaside town of Maiquetía, Venezuela, in 1920, Hurtado migrated to New York at age 8. At the then-all-girls high school Washington Irving, she studied fine art and developed a keen interest in anti-fascist political movements. [At one point], she supported herself by creating imaginative installations for Lord & Taylor and fashion illustrations for Vogue — at night, she created totemic figure drawings with watercolor and crayon. …

“ ‘Luchita has always had this very fluid identity, which makes her art so 21st century,’ says the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, who is organizing her retrospective in London. ‘We have to contextualize her clearly with the historic avant-garde, because she is a contemporary of Frida Kahlo, she knew Diego Rivera and was married to Wolfgang Paalen, a key figure of surrealism — and she is a key figure of spiritual surrealism, with a connection to pre-Columbian art, but we cannot lock her in that.’…

“Hurtado possesses the grace of someone who has not spent her life promoting her art, but quietly and diligently producing it — at her kitchen table, in backyards and closets and, at one point, in a stand-alone studio in the Santa Monica Canyon. …

‘I never stopped drawing, looking, living,’ she tells me. ‘It’s all the same thing, all solving your own life. …

” ‘I remember my childhood more and more,’ Hurtado tells me, tucking a tortoiseshell comb into her hair, which she had cut short herself the day before. She shares memories from Venezuela — hiding under fan-shaped leaves, watching crabs scuttle across the beach, devouring mangoes in a cool stream.

“Lately, when she wakes, she sees a vision of a pink ceiling floating above her. I imagine the series of paintings she created in 1975 in which bright-white squares are framed by mesmerizing planes of blue, goldenrod and fiery red — intended to draw moths to an illusory light, they give off a sense of ascension and expansion.

‘I’ve concluded that I’m going somewhere,’ she tells me. ‘It’s not death; it’s a border that we cross. I don’t think I’ll be able to come back and tell you, but if I can, I’ll find a way. If you suddenly see a pink ceiling, that’s me.’

Read her reasons for promoting different husbands’ work, never her own, at the New York Times, here.

 

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I’ve been meaning to blog about the wildly successful music-education program out of Venezuela, El Sistema.

Here music critic Mark Swed follows the L.A. Philharmonic to Caracas and writes about El Sistema for the Los Angeles Times.

“Musically, Venezuela is like no other place on Earth. Along with baseball and beauty pageants, classical music is one of the country’s greatest passions.

“In the capital, Caracas, superstar Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel is mobbed wherever he goes. Classical music teeny-boppers run up to him for autographs when he walks off the podium at concerts. The state-run music education program, which is known as El Sistema and from which Dudamel emerged, is the most extensive, admired and increasingly imitated in the world. One of its nearly 300 music schools for children, or núcleos, is deep in the Venezuelan Amazon, reachable only by boat. …

“The basic tenet of José Antonio Abreu, the revered founder of El Sistema, is the universal aspect of music. He likes to say that music is a human right. That’s an effective, politically expedient slogan. But what he has demonstrated on a greater scale than ever before is that music is not so much a right as a given. El Sistema is not about talent, ingeniously effective system though it may be for discovering and fostering musical talent. The truly revolutionary aspect of El Sistema is its proof that everyone has a capacity for music.”

Read about how El Sistema has spread worldwide in the Los Angeles Times.

Children at La Rinconada in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 14, 2012. Gustavo Dudamel, right, among students at a showcase of El Sistema in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 15. Photograph: Mark Swed / Los Angeles Times

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Who wouldn’t love this story? Remember the mime Marcel Marceau? Now try to picture him directing traffic in a crazy intersection.

According to an article in the Canadian Press, by Christopher Toothaker (really his name), “Caracas, Venezuela, is placing over a hundred mimes on its busy streets to admonish reckless drivers and pedestrians. The mimes, dressed in clown-like outfits and wearing white gloves, may frown and gesticulate the command of ‘stop’ to motorcyclists roaring towards crosswalks or wag their fingers at jaywalking pedestrians. Although some reprimanded motorists have predictably hurled insults, mimes have reported that most people have reacted agreeably. Caracas is following the example set by Bogota, Columbia, which has successfully used mimes in a broader effort to increase commuter civility.”

Let’s bring back the Works Progress Administration and employ people as mimes. I can think of lots of intersections that need them, mostly in Boston. (But learning to be a mime is probably not as easy as it seems.)

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With the increase in vehicle crimes
Caracas has turned to some mimes.
They’ve slowed down the speeding,
Which no one was needing,
And inspired these few awkward rhymes.

Your turn. (If you use the French pronunciation, “meem,” that opens a whole other slate of rhyming options.)

P.S. Isn’t there a literary character — probably in Dickens — who keeps “dropping into poetry”?

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