Dominique Brebion reviews Carmen Herrera’s “Estructuras”


Dominique Brebion (AICA Caraïbe du Sud) describes Cuba artist Carmen Herrera—“An extraordinary human and artistic adventure; having waited to reach her hundredth year to achieve international recognition after selling only one painting at age 89 … and yet, she continues her creative path rigorously”—and her current exhibition at the Lisson Gallery in New York. [Also see previous post Carmen Herrera’s “Estructuras.”] Brebion writes:

The exhibition “Epic Abstraction: Pollock to Herrera” will open next December at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, with works from its collection—Autumn Rhythm (1950) by Jackson Pollock, Mrs. N’s Palace (1964-77) by Louise Nevelson), and works by Kazuo Shiraga (Japan), Ilona Keserü (Hungary), Helen Frankenthaler, Carmen Herrera, Shiraga, Joan Snyder, and Cy Twombly. This confirms the consecration, albeit very late, of Cuban artist Carmen Herrera, who lived in Paris for decades, where she worked and exhibited with Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian, and had to wait for her 100th birthday to be finally recognized through the retrospective, “Lines of sight,” at the Whitney Museum at the end of 2016. She sold her first painting at age 89, while today, bids for her work run from $970,000 to $1,176,000 at Philipps.

Currently, Lisson Gallery in New York is showing a collection of thirteen of her works, “Estructuras”—including two exceptional sculptures from 1970, “Estructura amarilla” and “Azul tres,” but also new creations in painted aluminum. Eight works hang on the picture rails, three arranged on the ground, most of them conceived in the ‘60s but realized in 2018. Drawings accompany the sculptures, demonstrating to what extent her thinking is architectural.

Carmen Herrera is a follower of pure geometric abstraction. Her architectural abstraction announced the minimalism of artists like Carl Andrews and Donald Judd. Herrera plays on formal simplicity, monochrome planes with saturated colors, symmetry, asymmetry, and rhythm, purifying her forms to retain only the essential. The white of the walls, revealed by the spaces in the monochrome forms, can plays the role of a second color.

This is a rigorous work, exemplary, masterful … a way of life.

[Carmen Herrera, Untitled Estructura (Red) 1966 2016, Courtesy Lisson Gallery.]

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