Carmen Herrera (1915–2022) – Artforum International
Cuban-born artist Carmen Herrera, who painted in obscurity for decades before seeing her vibrant hard-edge abstractions achieve worldwide fame at the age of eighty-nine, died on February 12 at her home in New York at the age of 106. News of his death was confirmed by artist Tony Bechara, his close friend and legal representative. Coming of age alongside abstract expressionists Barnett Newman and Ad Reinhardt, whom she considered friends, Herrera found herself ostracized because of her status as a Latin American woman and her work in discrepancy with the then fashionable work of his aforementioned compatriots. She continued to make art uninhibited and consistent until Bechara, a neighbor and then president of New York’s Museo del Barrio, introduced her to a prominent gallerist. In a few years, Herrera went from oblivion to praise of the New York Times as “a key player in any post-war art history,” his works from decades ago have fetched more than $1 million at auction.
Herrera was born in 1915 in Havana, to a publisher father and a journalist mother, and enjoyed a distinguished upbringing, attending a private school in Paris before returning home to study architecture at the University. from Havana. Thwarted in this effort due to the turbulent atmosphere of the country’s heavy military dictatorship, she left school, married, and moved to New York, where she studied at the Art Students League. During a stay in Paris that lasted from 1948 to 1956, she developed the style for which she would become famous much later, characterized by abstract geometric shapes whose sharp angles were informed by mathematical logic. write in art forum in 2013, Alessandra Pioselli would describe Herrera’s works, often rendered in pure black and white, as well as warm yellows, blues, oranges, greens and pinks, as “fields traversed by interdependent forces” and marked by “measurements proportional and chromatic relationships where nothing is left to chance.
While in Paris, Herrera said in a 2016 interview with art forum“materials were so scarce there after World War II that I was forced to use horse blankets as canvases. I learned to use bare materials as the finished product. Herrera eventually took on wood as a second substrate, shaping bright shards that in themselves retained the spare angular lines filed in her usual canvases, “The main thing was always to take things out and refine them,” she told Bacon: “I like very simple things. I’ve never seen a straight line that I didn’t like! My visual language is based on the idea of contrasts and the juxtaposition of shapes. As for color, my feelings depend on color. Colors are really intuitive. There is no formula. I like to juxtapose shapes and colors until they tell me to stop. Then I know that I have a table.
By the time Herrera returned to New York, however, large male canvases by AbEx artists were all the rage, and she was only able to secure places for her work in modest group shows, enjoying only four exhibitions. personal in almost thirty years. . After her reintroduction in 2004, however, she came into the arms of a global audience eager for her minimalist compositions, and her work began to appear in numerous institutional exhibitions, with the Lisson Gallery in New York taking on the representation of the artist in 2012.
The Whitney Museum of American Art held a landmark exhibition of his work in 2016-2017 to wide acclaim; the show traveled to Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio, and Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf. The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and the Los Angeles County Museum of Contemporary Art gave him solo exhibitions in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Herrera’s work is housed in the collections of El Museo del Barrio, the Museum of Modern Art, both in New York; Tate Modern, London; and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the National Gallery of Art, both in Washington, DC. Last July, the French government awarded him the Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters.