Virginia Jaramillo is a Mexican-American artist who is known for her bold abstract paintings, sculptured mixed-media works, and her innovative pulp paintings.
Jaramillo was born in Texas but grew up in East Los Angeles. She attended Otis Art Institute in 1958. While still a student there, her work was exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Annual Exhibition. From 1959 to 1961 she showed her work with established California artists in annual exhibitions. She used the name ‘V Jaramillo’ to keep her gender unknown.
In the early 1960s, she was working in the Watts section of Los Angeles and made very large, 3 to 4 foot high, monochromatic paintings, punctuated by a different dense color. These grew out of Jaramillo’s family visits to the desert and cross-country drives with her artist husband Daniel LaRue Johnson (1938-2017) when she would look at the earth and see that, “It was all cracked.” Her paintings Terra Seca” 1963 and “Divide” 1964 reflect this vision of the landscape.
After a year in Paris with her husband in the mid-1960s, Jaramillo and her interracial family relocated from Los Angeles and moved permanently to New York. Her work evolved in response to her new environment and her new artistic community. In a studio on SoHo’s Spring street, she was reacting to the gestural nature of Abstract Expressionism by making paintings that were bold in scale, composition, and formal experimentation. She used thin washes of oil paint as well as acrylics for her abstract art. The flatness of her paintings’ surfaces and the precision of curves demonstrated Jaramillo’s affinities with Hard Edge Abstraction and Minimalism as seen in her “Tau Ceti” 1970. In 1972, her work was shown in the Whitney Museum of African Art’s annual show, the precursor to the Biennial.
In 1979, Jaramillo was co-editor of an issue of “Heresies,” a journal that looked at the experiences of women of color in the art world and in the mainstream Feminist Movement. That issue “Third World Women – The Politics of Being Other” featured her work “Visual Theorems #170,“ which came from her series “Visual Theorems.” The works from this series were made from natural linen fibers and earth pigments. Geometric lines, that were taped on paper-making molds, were used to draw multiple veils of colored pulp thrown onto the mould’s surfaces as layers of color were added to the underlying geometry. Paintings from this series as well as other large-scale paintings were shown in the group exhibition “Women Artists in the 80s: New Talent” at New York’s A.I.R. Gallery in 1984.
During the 1980s Jaramillo moved away from painting and worked on handmade paper and linoleum compositions. In the late 1990s she returned to painting. Jaramillo has had major exhibitions in 2017 at the Brooklyn Museum and Tate Modern, London. Her work was also recently shown in a group show at the California African American Museum (CAAM) in Los Angeles. Currently there is an exhibition of her work – her first solo museum show – at Houston’s Menil Collection, “Virginia Jaramillo: The Curvilinear Paintings, 1969-1974,” on view until July 3, 2021.
Her work is in the permanent collections of Museo Tamayo in Mexico City, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City.