Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales


Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales, curated by Public Art Fund curator Daniel S. Palmer, opens at City Hall Park, New York, on July 11, and will be on view through November 8, 2019. Estructuras Monumentales is Carmen Herrera’s first major exhibition of outdoor sculptures.

Description: Estructuras Monumentales is the first major exhibition of outdoor sculptures by New York-based artist Carmen Herrera (b. 1915, Havana, Cuba). She has created vibrant, abstract paintings for more than 70 years, but has only recently received her well-deserved art historical recognition. Herrera’s radiant compositions simplify dynamically juxtaposed forms to their purest elements of color and geometry, creating a distinctive and iconic clarity by emphasizing what she sees as “the beauty of the straight line.”

Herrera’s Estructuras series of sculptures are even less well known. Informed by her architectural training, Herrera began the series in the 1960s with a group of diagrammatic sketches. She envisioned large-scale monochromatic sculptures that would extend the experience of her luminous paintings into three dimensions. Until recently, these historic proposals have remained unrealized. With Estructuras Monumentales, this remarkable artist is now able to share her powerful structures with public audiences for the first time.


Estructuras Monumentales is 104-year-old Carmen Herrera’s first major exhibition of outdoor sculptures. The eminent artist first realized her Estructuras series as drawings in the 1960s. She is now able to share her powerful structures with public audiences for the first time.

Pavanne, 1967/2017
Herrera originally conceived this sculpture as a monument to her younger brother, Mariano, who was then dying of cancer. The three tightly fit, interlocking elements of this solemn work encourage quiet contemplation, while the title references the musical term for a slow processional dance with funereal overtones.

Angulo Rojo, 2017
Herrera still paints and creates every day. This is the first Estructura that she has designed in more than three decades. Its red chevron composition conveys movement and rhythm with a bold dynamism reminiscent of many of her most iconic paintings.

Estructura Verde, 1966/2018
This sculpture most clearly expresses the evolution from Herrera’s paintings to her Estructuras. Her breakthrough Blanco y Verde (1966-67) series of paintings on canvas created long acute wedges of dark paint among white expanses. This sculpture translates and inverts that arrangement, with two bold green interlocked L-shaped forms, which encompass slivers of negative space, incorporating the sculpture’s surroundings into its dynamic composition.

Amarillo Tres, 1971/2018
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Herrera began to work with a carpenter to translate her drawings into wooden sculptural Estructuras. That resulted in the important smaller Azul ‘Tres’ (1971), on which this monumental Estructurais based. Herrera was forced to temporarily halt this endeavor when the carpenter she worked with passed away and the grant stipend that had supported the work began to dwindle.

Untitled Estructura (Red), 1962/2018
Herrera’s Estructuras can be appreciated for their formal poetry, yet they can also be seen in the context of her life. In October of 1962, the confrontation between the United States and Cuba escalated to the Cuban Missile Crisis, during which Herrera and her husband Jesse Lowenthal were deeply involved in helping friends, family, and refugees escape the conflict. The overhanging cantilevered arrangement of this Estructura might abstractly allude to the tensions between Herrera’s adopted and native countries at the moment she conceived this work.

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