Celebrating Culture, Three Ways
By exploring three presentations—a curator spotlight talk, an intimate interview with a living artist, and an immersive performance—we highlight the work of a selection of diverse Latinx and Latin American artists in the MFA’s collections.
Luchita Hurtado's painting Untitled is currently part of “No Man’s Land,” a gallery within the larger exhibition Women Take the Floor at the MFA. This gallery is devoted to artists who have reimagined the metaphoric possibilities of landscapes, often through the use of symbols that allude to female experiences.
After more than seventy years as a working artist, Hurtado has recently received long-overdue recognition for her expansive oeuvre that includes paintings, drawings, fabric collages, and patterned garments. Nature and the body are frequent themes in her work; Hurtado has expressed her belief that the two are in fact interchangeable. Untitled belongs to a series of biomorphic landscapes she painted in the late 1960s and 1970s in which the artist merges the contours of a female body with natural features. Using a colorful, graphic style, she transforms knees and breasts into sand dunes, while a navel appears as a hole in the ground.
Luchita Hurtado's, Untitled
The photographs of Graciela Iturbide not only bear witness to Mexican society but express an intense personal and poetic lyricism about her native country. One of the most influential photographers active in Latin America today, Iturbide captures everyday life and its cultures, rituals, and religions, while also raising questions about paradoxes and social injustice in Mexican society. Her photographs tell a visual story of Mexico since the late 1970s—a country in constant transition, defined by the coexistence of the historical and modern as a result of the culture’s rich amalgamation of cultures. For Iturbide, photography is a way of life and a way of seeing and understanding Mexico and its beauty, challenges, and contradictions.
In the summer of 2018, Kristen Gresh, Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Senior Curator of Photographs, and members of the exhibition team visited Graciela Iturbide at her home and studio in Mexico City. In this documentary, produced by the MFA, the artist discusses the different series and themes explored in this exhibition, as well as her creative process.
Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico
Cecilia Vicuña's "Disappeared Quipu"
For millennia, ancient peoples of the Andes created quipus (khipus)—complex record-keeping devices, made of knotted cords, that served as an essential medium for reading and writing, registering and remembering. New York–based Chilean artist and poet Cecilia Vicuña has devoted a significant part of her artistic practice to studying, interpreting, and reactivating the quipus, which were banned by the Spanish during their colonization of South America. Drawing on her indigenous heritage, Vicuña channels this ancient, sensorial mode of communication into immersive installations and participatory performances. “Disappeared Quipu” features a newly commissioned, site-specific installation by Vicuña that combines monumental strands of knotted wool with a four-channel video projection. Together, these quipus of the past and present explore the nature of language and memory, the resilience of native people in the face of colonial repression, and Vicuña’s own experiences living in exile from her native Chile.
In addition to the installation, Vicuña staged a participatory meditative performance at the MFA. "Living Quipu" represents a rebirthing of the quipu—an ancient Andean mode of writing, record keeping, and remembering through an intricate system of knotted cords that was banned by the Spanish in colonial times. Throughout the performance, Vicuña weaves and wraps the audience in raw wool, poetry, and song, channeling the power of this lost language into a new vehicle for connection. For Vicuña, each person becomes a knot and vessel for memory in her “quipu for the future.”
Cecilia Vicuña: Living Quipu
All text and video © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Luchita Hurtado, Untitled, 1969. Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Promised gift of George and Lizbeth Krupp. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Pre-Columbian Gold and Andean Civilizations Gallery at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Family Courtyard at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Graciela Iturbide, Photographer, Chiapas, 1975. Photograph, gelatin silver print. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Portrait of Graciela Iturbide, 2019. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Cecilia Vicuña, Disappeared Quipu (Installation views), 2018. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.