Julie Mehretu: So, 1920 is when you were born?
Luchita Hurtado: November 28th.
Julie Mehretu: November 28th, 1920. Same day as me... 1970.
Luchita Hurtado: That’s interesting! I like that! You see, I knew we were relatives. Not just friends.
Julie Mehretu: A hundred years... a hundred years for you, this year—
Luchita Hurtado: Fifty for you.
Julie Mehretu: Yeah, fifty.
One Hundred and Fifty Years of Painting, by Tacita Dean, is a portrait in celluloid: a 50 ½ minute 16 mm continuous film loop of artists Luchita Hurtado and Julie Mehretu in conversation. The idea for a film featuring Hurtado and Mehretu grew out of Dean’s incredible chance discovery, in 2019, that these two artists, both longtime friends of hers, shared the same birthday of November 28—and, moreover, that in 2020, Julie would be turning 50, and Luchita 100.
Dean conceived of the film's title not only as a reference to the artists’ combined ages, but as a nod to the sweeping and authoritative titles of art history textbooks—the sly critique being that instead of the heavily male, Eurocentric focus of so many books with such titles, here would be a film featuring two women artists, one born in Venezuela, one born in Ethiopia, who together would command the authority of the title.
Filmed over the course of a single day, January 3, 2020, in Hurtado’s Santa Monica apartment, the artists’ conversation meanders through subjects ranging from motherhood, to the environment, to their experiences immigrating to the U.S. as children, and, most movingly, to painting as a way of understanding one’s place in the world. Like all of Dean’s films, a central component of the work is its status as film; for over a decade, Dean has been one of the leading voices advocating for the survival of celluloid, and for the preservation and display of photochemical film works in their original formats.
One Hundred and Fifty Years of Painting has special relevance for LACMA, as both Hurtado and Mehretu were the subjects of monographic surveys at LACMA (in 2020, both exhibitions were on view on BCAM, Level 3, at the same time). As well, both Hurtado and Mehretu are represented in LACMA’s collection through works that were acquired through previous Collectors Committee Weekends. The acquisition is a particularly meaningful tribute to Hurtado, who passed away on August 13, 2020 at the age of 99.
During our 36th annual Collectors Committee Weekend (April 22–23, 2022), members of LACMA's Collectors Committee generously helped the museum acquire nine works of art spanning a breadth of eras and cultures. We'll be publishing information about these acquisitions throughout the week here on Unframed.