Virginia Jaramillo, Song of Amergin, Acrylic on canvas, 182.9 x 304.8 cm, V_JAR0285, Photo by JSP Art Photography.jpg

Virginia Jaramillo, Song of Amergin, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 72 1/8" x 120" x 1 3/4" (182.9cm x 304.8cm x 4.4cm), courtesy Virginia Jaramillo and Hales Gallery. Photo by JSP Art Photography

Virginia Jaramillo

Virginia Jaramillo in front of Quanta, 2021, Image by JSP Art Photography 1.jpg

Virginia Jaramillo in her studio in front of Quanta, 2021, courtesy Virginia Jaramillo and Hales Gallery. Photo by JSP Art Photography

Details:

b. 1939, El Paso, Texas

In a career spanning over six decades, Virginia Jaramillo has ascended into the annals of contemporary art as a result of her steadfast precision and rigorous form across her oeuvre of minimalist paintings.

Born in southwestern Texas, Jaramillo’s family relocated to Los Angeles, California, when she was two years old, a move that would shape her artistic career. From a young age, her parents encouraged her to explore the arts, enrolling her at Manual Arts High School, which counts Jaramillo among their distinguished alumnae along with Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston, and Daniel LaRue Johnson. Over the weekends, Jaramillo’s art teacher would take a small group of students to Charles and Ray Eames’ studio for lectures and films. The Eames’ sleek, minimal, industrial style influenced Jaramillo, whose lifelong practice has been marked by a commitment to complementary tenets of minimalism and modernity. 

From 1958–61, Jaramillo studied at Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles. During her time as an art student, her work was accepted into the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (LACMA) annual exhibition for three consecutive years, from 1959–1961. At these exhibitions and during this period in her early career, Jaramillo used the gender-neutral abbreviation “V. Jaramillo.” Working in her backyard studio in Los Angeles in the years after art school, Jaramillo’s color palette in her paintings centered around earth tones, heavy blacks, and browns, which were the most affordable paints and the ones she felt most acutely reflected the dark, tense political climate in Los Angeles at the time. 

These issues came to a head in 1965, when historic, violent riots broke out in Jaramillo’s neighborhood of Watts, California. Facing fear and burning buildings on her block, Jaramillo and her family left Los Angeles and traveled to Europe, before settling permanently in New York City in 1967. While in Europe, Jaramillo experimented with unconventional materials, producing abstract works with oil and beeswax. Once in New York, Jaramillo departed from her longtime relationship with acrylic paint and began to work with oils. Settling into her Spring Street studio in the late 60s, Jaramillo commenced work on what has become one of her most recognizable and enduring bodies of work, a series of large-scale paintings known as her Curvilinear paintings. These vibrant abstractions are made up of a rich color field intersected by serpentine lines of brilliant color, which sweep the viewer’s gaze across the canvas. Exemplary of this series, Jaramillo’s painting Green Dawn 3 (1971)—a deeply hued purple background crosscut with an electric green line—was chosen for the 1972 Annual Exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Her Curvilinear paintings received further critical attention when Jaramillo was selected to participate in the groundbreaking 1971 exhibit The DeLuxe Show, which curator Peter Bradley chose to hold in an unused movie theater in a predominantly black neighborhood in Houston. Bradley famously selected artists without regard to their racial backgrounds, and it is now considered one of the first racially integrated exhibitions; notably, Jaramillo was the only woman and the only Mexican-American selected for the show. Other artists chosen for The DeLuxe Show include Kenneth Noland and Sam Gilliam. 

Beginning in 1979, Jaramillo departed from working on canvas and turned to natural materials—linen fibers and earth pigments—as well as learning to make her own paper at the Dieu Donné Paper Mill in Brooklyn. Jaramillo experimented with handmade works until the late 90s, when she returned to painting. She served on the board of the New York Feminist Art Institute, which was active from 1979–1990, and acted as a co-editor for an issue of Heresies Journal, which was a feminist outlet publishing on art in 1979. 

Since the early 2010s, Jaramillo has produced a series of works she calls Foundations, comprised of large-scale paintings which each relate to an architectural site, most often an archaeological site. Site: No. 10: 37.2309° N, 108.4618° W (2018) is an abstraction based on the coordinates for a location in Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado, which contains sacred sites for multiple Indigenous nations. Works in the Foundations series largely recall historically rich ancestral and sacred sites, from areas within the United States to South America and elsewhere, which reflect interests that have permeated Jaramillo’s oeuvre for the duration of her career. Jaramillo’s body of work demonstrates her varied interests, from classical and sacred geometries which recall the mathematical precision of her Curvilinear paintings, to broader occupations with Celtic and Greek mythologies, geography, Japanese aesthetics, and cosmology. 

Jaramillo's work has been included in prominent recent exhibitions globally, including the Tate Modern’s epochal Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power (2017–20), which traveled to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas; Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Broad, Los Angeles; de Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; and The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Texas. The Brooklyn Museum’s significant 2017 exhibition We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women 1965-85 included Jaramillo’s work and traveled to other distinguished museums in the United States.  In 2021, Jaramillo was included in the touring exhibition Women in Abstraction at Centre Pompidou, Paris, France and Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain. Her long-awaited, monumental show Virginia Jaramillo: The Curvilinear Paintings, 1969–1974 (2020) at the de Menil Foundation, Houston, marked the fiftieth anniversary of The De Luxe Show and her first solo exhibition. This same year, Jaramillo received the prestigious Anonymous Was a Woman grant. Jaramillo lives and works in Long Island, New York.

Virginia Jaramillo, Untitled, 1971, Acrylic on canvas, 213.5 x 183 cm, V_JAR0021.jpg

Virginia Jaramillo, Untitled, 1971, acrylic on canvas 84 1/8" x 72 1/8" (213.5cm x 183cm), courtesy Virginia Jaramillo and Hales Gallery. Photo by Frank Oudeman

Virginia Jaramillo, Untitled, 1974, Acrylic on Canvas, 208.3 x 177.8 cm.jpg

Virginia Jaramillo, Blue Space, 1974, oil on canvas, 82" x 70" (208.3cm x 177.8cm), courtesy Virginia Jaramillo and Hales Gallery. Photo by Frank Oudeman

Virginia Jaramillo, Song of Amergin, Acrylic on canvas, 182.9 x 304.8 cm, V_JAR0285, Photo by JSP Art Photography_Mailchimp.jpg

Virginia Jaramillo, Green Space, 1974, oil on canvas, 71 3/4" x 83 3/4" (182.2cm x 212.7cm), courtesy Virginia Jaramillo and Hales Gallery. Photo by Frank Oudeman

Virginia Jaramillo, Obrinus, 1976. Oil on canvas, 59 x 59 x 2 in. (149.9 x 149.9 x 5.1 cm). Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Gift of Berda Morley, 2018.27..jpg

Virginia Jaramillo, Obrinus, 1976, oil on canvas, 59" x 59" (149.9cm x 149.9cm), courtesy Virginia Jaramillo and Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Photo by Brian Forrest

Virginia Jaramillo, Untitled, 1967, Acrylic on canvas, 213.4 x 152.4 cm, V_JAR0040, Photo by JSP Art Photography.jpg

Virginia Jaramillo, Untitled, 1967, acrylic on canvas, 84" x 60" (213.4cm x 152.4cm), courtesy Virginia Jaramillo and Hales Gallery. Photo by JSP Art Photography

Virginia Jaramillo, Birth of Venus, 1975, Oil on canvas, 228.5 x 167.6 cm, V_JAR0019, Photo by Stan Narten.jpg

Virginia Jaramillo, Birth of Venus, 1975, oil on canvas, 90" x 66" (228.5cm x 167.6cm)