Sometimes a whole industry can be so focused on one thing that it completely ignores the other equally important things happening at the same time. What Cuban artist Carmen Herrera was doing the 1950s was one of those important things.
Abstract Expressionists artists like Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning with their bold, brazen and expressive styles ruled the day. Carmen Herrera offered something much different - a highly distilled form of abstraction that focused on a limited color palette and tightly controlled composition. As she has explained, “I had to forget about the trimmings and go to the core of things.”
When you put it all together - her superior but not popular painting style plus being a woman plus being an immigrant and when you put that all together - it’s no guessing why she was overlooked. Damn you sexism, racism and xenophobia.
Carmen Herrera resisted though. She kept painting. She stayed true to her vision and love of the straight line.
She’s 101 years old now and her artwork is finally getting the focused attention it deserves. I’m super grateful to have seen her work up close at the Whitney Museum a few months ago. The show closed two days ago.
Carmen Herrera created much of the work exhibited in Lines of Sight, between the years of 1948-1978 (a mere 30 years). While an impressive show, it’s a very limited one. Carmen Herrera has painted for over 70 years and this particular show captures only a sliver of that. I left the show wanting to see so much more. I have new found respect for the straight line thanks to Carmen Herrera.
I managed to snap a few shots of the work right before my camera died but you can header to the Whitney Museum’s website to feast on more of Carmen Herrera’s work and hear more from the artist herself in the film The 100 Years Show. Enjoy! #fineartforeveryone
Artist: Carmen Herrera b. 1915 Havana, Cuba (she currently lives and works in NYC)
Medium: Acrylic paint mostly
Thoughts from the artists: “
Fun fact: Carmen sold her first painting at age 89!
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in art and love,