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Room 1: From Edge to Line

Entrance

The first room in this exhibition is a large, rectangular space with white walls. With the atrium behind you, the room’s entrance is located at the bottom left of the rectangle. The length of the room extends to the right, and a shorter width is ahead. There is a soft neutral light and a high ceiling. In the middle of the room, there are two benches with a small gap between them. Most of the artworks in this room do not have stanchions in front of them. The exit to the next room is on the opposite corner of the rectangle.

Introduction

On the wall to the immediate right, there is a panel of section text introducing the artworks in this room. The section panel reads:

From Edge to Line

Painted in her backyard in Watts, Los Angeles, in between her children’s naps, Jaramillo’s early works were inspired by memories of the cracked desert earth at her grandparents’ ranch. In Jaramillo’s words, these paintings are “all about the edge—texture breaking through flatness.” At the same time, their somber palettes reflect the tense social backdrop of the mid-1960s. In a moment when artists’ identities were in sharp focus, Jaramillo signed her paintings “V. Jaramillo” to thwart gender-based readings of her work.

In 1966, following a formative year in Paris, Jaramillo moved to downtown New York. There, amid widespread unrest and calls for overtly political artwork, Jaramillo considered how abstraction’s artistic possibilities can also offer political engagement. Shifting her focus from the “textured edge” to the line, Jaramillo created her Curvilinear paintings. These works are grounded in the Japanese concept of ma, a generative pause or interval—an emptiness that Jaramillo found “filled with possibilities.”

First Wall

On the same wall as the room’s introduction, about 20 feet to the right of the section panel, there are two paintings beside one another.

Terra Mancha, 1964

Emulsion and gesso on canvas
Courtesy of the artist, Hales Gallery, and Pace Gallery

On the left, Terra Mancha looks as though the artist has cut out a section of cracked soil and stuck it onto a canvas. The underlying surface is a flat, dark grey. On top of this, the artist has built up layers of paint which cover the entire width of the painting, but leaving a thin strip of the blank background at the top and a slightly larger strip exposed at the bottom. The soil-like abstract form is a musty brown. It looks extremely dry and its edges against the dark canvas are ragged, as though the composition was rolled across the canvas like a scissor-cut piece of desert AstroTurf.

Structure Nine, 1965

Emulsion and gesso on canvas
Private Collection

To the right, Structure Nine is a larger, darker painting: an imposing black rectangle. The entire painting is black, with layers of paint creating an abstract texture across most of its surface. On its left side, there is a half-oval of flat, expressionless space, and a small area at the top right as well. Otherwise, the painting is completely covered in a stucco-like texture that gives the black paint depth and a slight shimmer. There are numerous bumps across the surface, and lines that snake among them. The thick paint runs right up to the edge of the painting’s flat areas, creating a small lip so that, even as the space is clearly defined, it feels as though the textured image is pressing against its boundaries. The way that the abstract ovals are cut off at the edges of the painting make this feel like a section of a larger whole, like a panel from a strange spaceship or a section of alien skin.

These two paintings are part of Jaramillo’s Black Paintings series, which was made with sparse time and limited materials while Jaramillo was living in Los Angeles. This series is partly informed by the struggle that Jaramillo and her husband, artist Daniel LaRue Johnson (b. 1938, Los Angeles, CA; d. 2017, New York, NY), faced as an interracial couple within the charged social climate of the 1960s. Navigating challenged relationships within her artistic and Mexican American communities, Jaramillo used texture to reflect on her experiences: “I painted layer upon layer, with time in between to dry. It was about a constant subtle battle as to which edge [of paint] is going to survive. That was the attack I was under.”

There is another painting on the same wall to the right, toward a corner of the room.

Paris Painting, 1965

Oil and beeswax on canvas
Courtesy of the artist, Hales Gallery, and Pace Gallery

Paris Painting is a small canvas, especially in comparison to those around it, around 19 inches high and 16 inches wide. It has an abstract shape like a capital T hovering above a rectangular dot, painted in thick strokes of dark brown. The paint is layered densely so that some parts are much lighter, some parts darker, depending on where it is thicker. At its lightest, around the edges of the T, the brown is as light as auburn, while toward the bottom it is dense and oaky. The very bottom of this shape is especially thick, with paint pushed up into a ridge: a visible trace of it being pushed across the painting’s surface. The background is a deep olive green. The T, as well as the rectangle beneath it, reach all the way to the edges of the composition.

In 1965, Jaramillo relocated to Paris for a year, when her husband, the artist Daniel LaRue Johnson, received a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. During this period, many artists living in the United States—particularly women artists and artists of color—pursued their practice overseas due to the discrimination that pervaded the US art scene.

To make Paris Painting, Jaramillo smeared a mixture of paint, beeswax, and gesso down the center of the canvas, producing a vessel-like form. The small scale of the four canvases that comprise Jaramillo’s Paris Painting series was dictated by the tight quarters of her Paris studio, as well as her intention to bring the works back to the US.

Second Wall

On an adjacent wall, immediately to the right of Paris Painting, there is a row of three large paintings.

Genesis, 1969

Acrylic on canvas
Courtesy of the artist, Pace Gallery, and Hales Gallery

In Genesis, razor-thin red lines crescendo into dynamic arcs that recall a bird in flight, while separating perfectly flat fields of purple and black. The painting’s background is a deep bluish purple, with black areas demarcated by two flowing lines. One area takes up the top left-hand quarter of the painting, while the other fills two thirds of the bottom right. Both areas are organically shaped, determined by the meandering sweep of their lines. While those lines begin extremely thinly at the edges of the painting, they swell as they move toward one another, expanding into bright red swaths of color. Then, they taper off again toward the image’s edges. Where the lines are thickest, a little above and to the right of the painting’s center, they come extremely close to touching but do not. In each black field there is also another secondary line: in the top left shape it is green, and in the bottom right it is yellow. The green line follows the black outline closely, arcing like an oval behind its red line. The yellow line, however, begins to follow its own red line before splitting off and curving away toward the lower right-hand corner of the painting. All lines, as they reach the image’s edges, become razor-thin and continue on the sides of the canvas, wrapping around the painting.

Genesis exemplifies Jaramillo’s use of line, shape, and color orchestrated in precise arrangements. The painting’s title hints at new beginnings, moments loaded with unmitigated potential, and a far-reaching sense of time.

Untitled, 1967

Acrylic on canvas
The Baltimore Museum of Art: Fanny B. Thalheimer Memorial Fund; and purchase with exchange funds from the Pearlstone Family Fund and partial gift of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., BMA 2021.14

This large painting depicts two lines that arc across the canvas, creating distinct sections that are each a unique color. A red line begins at the bottom left, curving up and looping like a cursive L, which sits about a third from the left side of the painting. The line then continues across the rest of the painting’s bottom quarter, turning upward slightly, and exiting the canvas at the bottom right. The center of the L-shape is a bright mustard yellow, and either side of it is painted burgundy. Beneath the red line, the painting is a flat field of leaf green. The other line is not clearly marked, but is visible as the edge of blackness that begins at the top of the painting, about a third from the right edge, and arcs downward. It bumps into the L-shape, looking like it pushes it slightly, before rebounding away and curving down to the bottom middle of the painting. Everything in the section behind this line is a uniform black. The red line itself, when it enters that space, turns a bright white.

Untitled, 1967

Acrylic on canvas
Courtesy of the artist, Pace Gallery, and Hales Gallery

This large painting shows big, red, flowing shapes that extend beyond the edges of the image. On a flat black background, these bright red forms arc and touch one another like blobs in a lava lamp. Each of these has an organic shape, and is defined mostly by sharp yellow lines that trace their outlines. There are two shapes which run into one another and merge on the lower two thirds of the painting, and a third which enters from the top, its peaked end coming to barely touch the one below it. Together, these shapes look like an abstracted and cropped tulip, or part of a crab claw. Their bulbous forms makes it look as though these three shapes are off-balance or in a state of change, as though they are pictured at a moment of motion and relationship with one another.

Third Wall

Behind you, on the wall to the right of the exhibition’s entrance, there are three large paintings in a row. From right to left, beginning at the entrance and moving away from it, the paintings proceed in the following order.

Untitled, 1973

Acrylic on canvas
Collection of the Pérez Art Museum Miami, museum purchase with funds provided by Jorge M. Pérez

The painting is rectangular, only slightly taller than it is wide. There are two distinct features of the painting: a monochrome background and a line. The background is black, flat, and untextured—its tone and hue are even throughout. The line is a bright, electric fuschia. The line begins roughly half-way along the bottom of the painting. The curve is very slight, as the line hugs close to the bottom of the painting before curving out towards the right. As the curve reaches its peak, it begins to straighten out and lead towards the top of the painting. It then curves towards the left of the painting slightly, and subtle, negative slope, inches towards the right side to end roughly one-fifth of the way along the right side from the top-right corner. This line is the same as the bright pink line replicated on the outside of the gallery, to the right of the exhibition’s introduction.

Untitled, 1971

Acrylic on canvas
The Menil Collection, Houston, Purchased with funds provided by Suzanne Deal Booth

In Untitled (1971), three intersecting lines run vertically across a field of forest green. The painting is rectangular, taller than it is wide. The background is an untextured and flat muted-green, subtly darkening as it reaches the edges and corners of the painting. There are three lines within the painting, each beginning at the bottom and ending at the top. One of the lines is yellow, and begins roughly one-fifth of the way along the bottom from the left. It curves out towards the left-side, and comes in towards the right to end roughly one-fifth of the way along the top from the right. The second line is a marine blue, and begins roughly one-third of the way along the bottom from the left. The line curves out towards the left of the painting, and ends roughly one-third of the way along the top from the right. The third line is a bright orange, and begins roughly two-thirds of the way along the bottom from the left. The line curves out towards the left of the painting, and as it comes in to the right it curves towards the top until it nearly becomes a straight line. This orange line connects roughly one-tenth of the way along the top from the right side.

These lines evoke a sense of the infinite. In the artist’s words, “the lines never end.” Jaramillo underscores this sensation of boundlessness by often extending the lines onto the sides of the canvas. Along with the two paintings beside it, Untitled is part of Jaramillo’s Curvilinear series. These pristine monochromes are interrupted by lines that seem to dance—or, as artist Frank Bowling observed, “whip”—across the paintings’ surfaces. Jaramillo made these works as part of a broader, contemporaneous trend turning away from visible brush marks, resulting in work that is often described as “hard-edge,” cool, or minimal, in which any evidence of the artist’s hand remains concealed.

Tau Ceti, 1970

Acrylic on canvas
Private collection, London

The artwork is rectangular, taller than it is wide. The painting is composed of three distinct features: a flat and vignetted background, a blue curve, and an orange curve. The background is untextured, and darkens in tone at the outer edges of the painting. The background is a dusty orange with a tinge of brown, and is lightest as it reaches the center of the painting. The black curve is thin, about as wide as a pencil. It begins at the bottom of the painting, starting at roughly one-third of the way along the bottom from the left. The line curves with its peak towards the left of the painting, and connects to the top of the painting roughly one-third of the way along the top from the right. The orange line is a more saturated orange than that of the background. Similarly to the black line, it begins at the bottom of the painting and ends at the top; however, it begins roughly one-fifth of the way along the bottom from the left, and ends roughly one-fourth of the way along the top from the right. As the orange line curves closer to the top, it begins to lead towards the right side of the painting—just as it does this, and seems as if it will end on the right-side of the painting, the line juts sharply up, and connects to the top of the painting roughly one-fourth of the way along from the right.

Fourth Wall

On an adjacent wall, there are two large paintings. Moving from right to left, which is toward the exit to the next room, those paintings are as follows.

Untitled, 1971

Acrylic on canvas
Brooklyn Museum, Purchased with funds given by Frieze Brooklyn Museum Fund. Supported by WME | IMG and LIFEWTR, gift of the Contemporary Art Committee, and William K. Jacobs, Jr. Fund 2017.12

This abstract painting is large and rectangular, in a portrait format, although it is only a little more rectangular than it is square. Most of the image is painted an even, dark forest green background. There is a slightly visible texture from the canvas, but no visible brushstrokes. Across this background, three curving lines extend from the bottom of the painting. They originate roughly a third from the left-hand side, coming up from the painting’s lower edge before splaying outward and separating like a bouquet of flowers. On the left, a soft pink line meanders upward: it turns a little, but mostly progresses straight toward the top of the painting. Immediately to the right of it, entering the painting very close at the bottom, there is a dark blue line. This line weaves slowly to the right as it moves across the painting. This line’s deep blue color sometimes is hard to see, blending in with the background’s forest green, but at a couple of points the light from the room casts highlights on the slightly-more-reflective paint. On closer inspection, this blue line is embedded in the surface of the painting: the background is raised around it as though the blue line was masked while its green surroundings were layered on the canvas. The third line is bright red, and starts a little further to the right at the bottom of the painting. This line curves evenly toward the left-hand side of the painting. It exits the image around four-fifths of the way from the bottom, close to the top, and passes over both other lines on its way. It crosses over the blue line where they intersect, but passes underneath the pink line. The other two lines do not intersect. As each line exits the image, it continues along the sides of the painting and out of sight.

In 1971, Untitled was featured in The De Luxe Show, an exhibition held at the De Luxe Theater in Houston’s Fifth Ward, curated by artist Peter Bradley. Among the first racially integrated exhibitions of contemporary art in the United States, this landmark exhibition foregrounded abstraction as a way of responding to debates around representation, artmaking, and politics. In Bradley’s words, “This art should be like the new world we’re all striving towards, free of obstruction.” Of the 18 individuals featured in the exhibition, Jaramillo was the only woman artist and the only artist of Latin American heritage.

Untitled, 1971

Acrylic on canvas
The Rachofsky Collection

This large, portrait-oriented painting is around eight feet tall and six feet wide. Most of its surface is a warm purple-black background that is uniform across the entire painting. Some of the canvas’s texture is visible, but the artist’s brushstrokes are not. On this surface, there are two curving lines that move across the painting. One line is a light pink parabola, which starts at the lower left side of the canvas and exits around the middle right. It moves consistently in an arc. The other line is a vibrant red, and meanders much more: it comes up from the bottom edge of the painting, on the left, and initially moves close to vertically upward. It passes over the pink line where they intersect, but then bends to the right. As it continues turning horizontally, it crosses more of the painting, and about halfway on the canvas this line dips downward before continuing in a slow horizontal wave toward the image’s right edge. Both of these lines, as they reach the edges, continue onto the sides of the painting and out of sight.

To the left of this wall is the entrance to the next room. This is the opposite corner of the room’s rectangular shape to where the section text and entrance is situated.