Pace Gallery Takes on Virginia Jaramillo, Abstract Painter Whose Work Has Recently Seen a Resurgence

Pace Gallery now represents Virginia Jaramillo, a pioneering abstract painter who has been making work for over six decades but has only recently seen a resurgence in interest. Jaramillo will continue to work with Hales Gallery, which has locations in London and New York.

With this representation, Jaramillo will become one of the few U.S.-born Latina artists to be represented by a mega-gallery. Pace will present her work at its booth at the inaugural edition of Frieze Seoul in September and will mount a solo show of her work at its forthcoming Los Angeles space in May 2023. The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City is currently at work organizing a career retrospective of her work.

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“Through her meticulous, contemplative abstractions, Virginia expresses ideas about complex physical and theoretical subjects, imbuing her minimalist compositions with emotional resonance,” Pace’s CEO and president Marc Glimcher said in a statement. “Virginia’s explorations of space, depth, and materiality produce mesmeric effects, drawing us into the illimitable realms of her chromatically rich, dynamic canvases.”

Best known for her “Curvilinear Paintings,” Jaramillo has long been fascinated with the simplicity—and complexity—of a single line. In a 2020 interview with ARTnews, she said, “I started eliminating everything from my canvas and doing just the line. How can I make this one line appear—how important is this line? Is that line as important as the negative space around it, or is the negative space around the line equally important, or even more important?”

Born in El Paso, Texas, in 1939, Jaramillo was raised in East Los Angeles and early on showed an aptitude for drawing. (“Even in school, I was always called Leonarda,” she said in her ARTnews interview.) She attended L.A.’s Manual Arts High School and received early tutelage from Charles and Ray Eames. In 1959, her work was included in an “Annual” exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

In the mid-’60s, she moved to Paris with her late husband, Daniel LaRue Johnson, a fellow artist who had received a Guggenheim fellowship. That experience changed the direction of her art-making and renewed her commitment to process-based abstraction.

When the couple returned to the United States, they settled in New York. They were both invited to participate in the groundbreaking 1971 exhibition, “The DeLuxe Show,” which was spearheaded by artist Peter Bradley and supported by the Menil Collection. Presented at the derelict DeLuxe movie theater in Houston’s historically Black Fifth Ward neighborhood, the show is often cited as the first racially integrated art exhibition in the country. A Mexican American, Jaramillo was the only woman and the only Latina included in the show.

An abstract painting that has two rectangles made of different shades of light green. Near the top a red line runs through the painting.

Virginia Jaramillo, Green Space, 1974.

Ahead of its celebrations of the 50th anniversary of “The DeLuxe Show,” the Menil Collection organized Jaramillo’s first-ever museum solo show in 2020. That was followed by a solo show at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York, not far from the artist’s longtime home-studio in Hamptons Bay.

Because of her marriage to LaRue Johnson, who was Black, Jaramillo’s work has also been discussed within the history of the Black Arts Movement and has been included in a number of recent major traveling exhibitions, including “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” (2017), “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women 1965-85” (2017), and “Now Dig This! Art & Black Los Angeles” (2011). Additionally, her work was included in the Centre Pompidou’s 2021 exhibition “Women in Abstraction.”

Her work is included the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Crystal Bridges in Arkansas, the Menil Collection in Houston, the Peréz Art Museum Miami, and the Museo Rufino Tamayo in Mexico City.

In a statement about joining Pace, Jaramillo said she recalled first visiting the gallery in the ’70s to see an Agnes Martin show. “At the time, there were very few women artists exhibiting in a major New York gallery,” she said. “What I saw that day of Martin’s work took my breath away. I thought how brave the artist and the gallery were for their conviction to show this extraordinary work, which, at the time, was very much outside the norm. That is my lasting impression of Pace Gallery.”


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