Nice piece by Benjamin Sutton on recent documentaries about women artists Elizabeth Murray and Carmen Herrera, the Cuban painter who rose to fame in her 80s. The films, Everybody Knows … Elizabeth Murray and The 100 Years Show continue, are on view as a double bill at Film Forum (209 West Houston Street, West Village, Manhattan) through January 17. Sutton compares the trajectories of the two artists; here are excerpts from Hyperallergic:
The life stories and work of painters Elizabeth Murray and Carmen Herrera could not be more different, and yet, as told in documentaries about each of them now playing as a double-bill at Film Forum, they share at least two traits: absolute commitment to their instincts and success in spite of art world sexism.
Herrera, now 101 and coming off a major solo show at the Whitney Museum, developed a style of hard-edged geometric abstraction in the 1950s and ’60s that received none of the praise heaped on her male contemporaries working in a similar vein, most obviously Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella. Murray, who enjoyed great success in the two decades prior to her death from cancer in 2007, kept at her colorful and often enigmatically figurative paintings on formed canvases through the years when Minimalism was king. These compelling if fairly conventional documentaries — the hour-long Everybody Knows … Elizabeth Murray and the half-hour long The 100 Years Show — tell the stories of two artists who never wavered in their certainty that what they were doing was worth continuing to do.
[. . .] Herrera comes from a family of influential intellectuals in Havana, where her father founded a newspaper and her mother was a journalist. After marrying an American and living in Paris for five years, during which she honed her style into the popping juxtapositions of duo-chromatic geometry we know today, she and her husband settled in New York. Meanwhile her family in Cuba, which supported the revolution, suffered greatly under the ensuing dictatorship of Fidel Castro — her brother was even thrown in jail for five years. She toiled in virtually total obscurity for decades — her home and studio, atop a tiny building in Manhattan wedged between office towers, seems the perfect architectural manifestation of her outsider status — until a chance inclusion in a three-artist show at Frederico Sève Gallery in 2003 set the ball rolling toward her Whitney retrospective. [. . .]