Virginia Jaramillo's Curvilinear Paintings a Highlight of the Menil's Fall Reopening

  • September 07, 2020 16:28

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Virginia Jaramillo, Untitled, 1971. Acrylic on canvas, 84 1/8 × 71 in. (213.7 × 180.3 cm). The Menil Collection, Houston, purchased with funds provided by Suzanne Deal Booth. Courtesy of the Artist.

The Menil Collection will reopen its main building and the Menil Drawing Institute in Houston on Saturday, September 12. In the main building galleries, visitors will be greeted with a fresh installation of works by John Chamberlain, Mary Corse, Dan Flavin, Barkley Hendricks, Leslie Hewitt, Jasper Johns, Louise Nevelson, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and more. On special loan is a monumental painting by Helen Frankenthaler, Hybrid Vigor, 1973, which has not been publicly exhibited in more than forty years. Also, on view in the main building is the exhibition Photography and the Surreal Imagination, and in the Menil Drawing Institute is Think of Them as Spaces: Brice Marden’s Drawings, both of which have been extended since opening earlier this year.

Installation view of Helen Frankenthaler, Hybrid Vigor, 1973.
photo: Paul Hester

On view September 26, 2020, will be two major exhibitions: Allora & Calzadilla: Specters of Noon and Virginia Jaramillo: The Curvilinear Paintings, 1969–1974. Specters of Noon consists of seven newly commissioned works created by the internationally renowned Puerto Rico-based artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla. The pieces are inspired by their four-year immersion in the Menil Collection’s extraordinary holdings of Surrealism and capture the energy and intrigue of high noon. The resulting installation responds to contemporary economic and ecological issues shared by Houston and San Juan.

Allora & Calzadilla, Graft, 2019. Dimensions variable. Recycled polyvinyl chloride and paint. © Allora & Calzadilla, courtesy of Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels. Photo: David Regen.

The Menil’s Virginia Jaramillo presentation marks the fiftieth anniversary of The De Luxe Show, one of the first racially integrated exhibitions of contemporary art held in the United States. Organized by the Menil Foundation in 1971, The De Luxe Show was installed in a shuttered movie theater located in Houston’s Fifth Ward. The trailblazing exhibition, curated by New York artist Peter Bradley, included works by Sam Gilliam, Al Loving, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, and others exploring new approaches to abstraction. Jaramillo, the only woman and Latina included, exhibited the painting Green Dawn, 1970, which will be on view at the Menil for this special presentation.

Virginia Jaramillo, Genesis, 1969. Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, London and New York
Virginia Jaramillo

Born in El Paso, Texas, and raised in Los Angeles, where she attended the Manual Arts High School and then studied at Otis Art Institute, Jaramillo first came to public attention at age 18, when one of her works was selected for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (LACMA) annual exhibition. She repeatedly participated in the LACMA Annual in subsequent years,
signing her works with the gender-neutral “V. Jaramillo.” Following the Watts riots in 1965, she temporarily relocated to Paris before settling in New York City in 1967. There, her painting evolved as she became a part of the artistic community, where she worked alongside figures such as Melvin Edwards, Kenneth Noland, Mark Di Suvero, and Jack Whitten. It was at this
moment when Jaramillo embarked on her curvilinear paintings, with intensely vivid fields of color crossed by curving, intersecting, and meticulously painted lines, which artist Frank Bowling aptly described as “lightning whips.”

Jaramillo uses abstract painting to translate “the structure of our physical, spiritual, and mental worlds” into the space and geometry of art. She describes the planes of color in the curvilinear paintings as a “mental space” that invites reflection: “I lay out the groundwork and the viewer projects onto the space” to fill the “spatial arena with their own feelings and experiences.” To create these transporting arenas, she custom mixes her pigments to achieve deep color fields, that play with the viewer’s understanding of light, space, and depth.

Michelle White, senior curator at the Menil Collection, said, “Working with Virginia Jaramillo on this exhibition over the past several years has been extraordinary, and I hope this show can help us consider the artist’s deeply under-recognized work as a critical contribution to the history of twentieth-century abstract painting. Highlighting the Menil Collection’s initiative to illuminate areas of the museum’s growing permanent collection through surprising and revelatory installations, the exhibition features Jaramillo’s painting in our collection. It also dives into this period of her work to reveal one of her core concerns, from the beginning of her career up to the present: how to use her experiments with materials, forms and process to challenge our perception of reality.”

For additional details and visitor guidelines, visit the museum website.

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