Lisson Gallery

Carmen Herrera

Core to Carmen Herrera’s painting was a drive for formal simplicity and a striking sense of colour: “My quest”, she said, “is for the simplest of pictorial resolutions” (2012). A master of crisp lines and contrasting chromatic planes, Herrera created symmetry, asymmetry and an infinite variety of movement, rhythm and spatial tension across the canvas with the most unobtrusive application of paint. As she moved away from biomorphism towards pure, geometric abstraction during her time in Paris in the later 1940s, she began making shaped, elliptical and tondo canvases, in addition to pioneering the use of solvent-based acrylic paints in post-war Europe. She exhibited alongside Theo van Doesburg, Max Bill and Piet Mondrian and a younger generation of Latin American artists, such as members of the Venezuelan Los Disidentes, Brazilian Concretists and the Argentinian Grupo Madi. By the mid-1960s she had experimented with much reduced palettes, pairing black or green with white – “like saying yes and no” – before leaving the picture plane entirely and beginning work on her first Estructuras, a series of sculptural works occupying the wall, floor and the public realm, which also paid homage to her earlier training in architecture. Reflecting on this mid-century period, she said, “I began a lifelong process of purification, a process of taking away what isn’t essential” (2005). Herrera’s growing body of work established, quietly but steadily, a cross-cultural dialogue within the international history of modernist abstraction. Her work also chimes with her peers such as Barnett Newman and Leon Polk Smith. While receiving increasing plaudits and museum recognition later in life, Herrera remained grounded throughout, stating when aged 105 that: “Being ignored is a form of freedom. I felt liberated from having to constantly please anyone.” 

Carmen Herrera was born in Havana, Cuba in 1915. She moved frequently between France and Cuba throughout the 1930s and 1940s; having started studying architecture at the Universidad de La Habana, Havana, Cuba (1938–39), she trained at the Art Students League, New York, NY, USA (1942– 43), before exhibiting five times at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France (1949–53). She settled in New York in 1954, where she lived and worked until her death in 2022. Herrera’s work was the subject of a large-scale survey, Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA (2016), which travelled to the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH, USA (2017) and Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (K20), Düsseldorf, Germany (2017–2018). Herrera has also had significant solo exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, TX, USA (2020); Museum Pfalzgalerie Kaiserslautern, Germany (2010); Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK (2009); and El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY, USA (1998). From 2018-2020, her work was featured in the exhibition Epic Abstraction: Pollock to Herrera at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Herrera premiered her Estructuras Monumentales, massive aluminium structures largely conceived in the 1960s and 1970s, at City Hall Park in New York City in 2019, organised by the Public Art Fund. Herrera’s large-scale mural, Verde, que te quiero verde (2020) was unveiled at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas in May of 2023 as part of the museum’s grounds redesign.

Herrera’s work is in numerous public and private collections including the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA; the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA; the Tate Collection, London, UK; Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (K20), Düsseldorf, Germany; the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY, USA; the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC, USA; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC, USA; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, USA; the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, MA, USA; the Pérez Art Museum, Miami, FL, USA; Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, Bentonville, AR, USA; the Cleveland Museum of Art, OH, USA; the Blanton Museum of Art, University of Austin, TX, USA; and the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, NY, USA.

Recent, current and forthcoming projects

'Carmen Herrera', Site Santa Fe, NM, USA, 1 March 2024 - September 16 2024

'Carmen Herrera: Estructuras', Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, Nashville, TN, USA, 4 May - 3 September 2023

'Mid-Century Geometric Abstraction in the Modern Art Galleries', Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA, USA

'Carmen Herrera: Wayne McGregor', Royal Opera House, London, UK  June 2023

Borealis

Carmen Herrera
Borealis

1966/2016
Acrylic and aluminium
66 x 152.4 x 13 cm
26 x 60 x 5 1/8 in

Borealis (detail)

Carmen Herrera
Borealis (detail)

1966/2016
Acrylic and aluminium
66 x 152.4 x 13 cm
26 x 60 x 5 1/8 in

Diptych (Green & Black)

Carmen Herrera
Diptych (Green & Black)

1976
Acrylic on Canvas
Each panel: 114.9 x 101.6 x 3.8 cm
Each panel: 45 1/4 x 40 x 1 1/2 in
Installed: 114.9 x 210.8 x 3.8 cm
Installed: 45 1/4 x 83 x 1 1/2 in

Untitled Estructura (Yellow), 1966/2016 and Untitled, 2013

Carmen Herrera
Untitled Estructura (Yellow), 1966/2016 and Untitled, 2013

 

Acrylic and aluminium
152.4 x 111.8 x 12.7 cm
60 x 44 x 5 in
AP1 of 1 + 1 AP

&

Acrylic on canvas
182.9 x 91.4 cm
72 x 36 in

Permanent Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA 

Ariel

Carmen Herrera
Ariel

2006
Acrylic on Canvas
Painting: 91.4 x 91.4 cm | 36 x 36 in
Installed: 132.1 x 132.1 cm | 52 x 52 in

Pavanne

Carmen Herrera
Pavanne

1967/2017
Acrylic and aluminum
274.3 x 274.3 x 182.9 cm
108 x 108 x 72 in
AP1 of Edition 1 + 1 AP
Now on view at the Fredriksen Collection Rooms, National Museum of Art, Oslo, Norway

Black & Orange

Carmen Herrera
Black & Orange

1989
Acrylic on canvas
106.7 x 106.7 cm 
42 x 42 in

Pavanne (Green)

Carmen Herrera
Pavanne (Green)

1967/2016
Acrylic and aluminium
91.4 x 91.4 x 60.9 cm
35 7/8 x 35 7/8 x 23 7/8 in
Edition of 1 + 1AP

Untitled

Carmen Herrera
Untitled

1948
Oil on burlap
46.2 x 65 x 2.4 cm
18 1/4 x 25 5/8 x 7/8 in

Sunday

Carmen Herrera
Sunday

1978
Acrylic on canvas
162.6 x 106.7 cm
64 x 42 in
 

Estructuras

Carmen Herrera
Estructuras

May 4, 2023 - September 3, 2023

Installation image

Cheekwood Estate

Nashville, TN

 

Green Garden

Carmen Herrera
Green Garden

1950
Acrylic on canvas
45.5 x 60.8 cm
18 x 24 in
Collection of the Tate, London, UK

Angulo Rojo

Carmen Herrera
Angulo Rojo

2017
Acrylic and aluminium
213.4 x 307.3 x 48.3 cm
84 x 120 7/8 x 19 in

Currently on view as part of Estructuras Monumentales, City Hall Park, New York, NY

Blanco y Verde

Carmen Herrera
Blanco y Verde

1959
Acrylic on canvas
172.7 x 152.4 cm
68 x 60 in
Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, USA

Le Bateau Ivre, 2012

Carmen Herrera
Le Bateau Ivre, 2012

Acrylic and pencil on paper
50 x 69.9 cm
19 5/8 x 27 1/2 in

Iberic

Carmen Herrera
Iberic

1949
Acrylic on canvas on board
101.6 cm diameter
40 in diameter
Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, USA

Amarillo "Uno"

Carmen Herrera
Amarillo "Uno"

1971
Acrylic on wood
114.3 x 152.4 x 7.6 cm
45 x 60 x 3 in

Black and White

Carmen Herrera
Black and White

1987
Acrylic on canvas
182.9 x 152.4 cm
72 x 60 in

Rondo (Blue and Yellow)

Carmen Herrera
Rondo (Blue and Yellow)

1965
Acrylic on canvas
100 cm diameter
39 3/8 in diameter
Collection of the Hirshhorn Musuem 

Estructura Verde

Carmen Herrera
Estructura Verde

1966/2018
Acrylic and aluminium
213.4 x 373.7 x 26.7 cm
84 x 147 1/8 x 10 1/2 in
Edition of 1 + 1 AP
Currently on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA, USA

Alpes

Carmen Herrera
Alpes

2015
Acrylic on canvas
304.8 x 182.8 cm
72 x 120 in
Collection of K20 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf, Germany

Atacama, 2018

Carmen Herrera
Atacama, 2018

Acrylic on canvas
121.9 x 152.4 cm
48 x 60 in
 

Museum Exhibitions

Exhibitions

  1. Carmen Herrera: Paintings on Paper

    Carmen Herrera: Paintings on Paper

    7 March – 13 April 2024

  2. Carmen Herrera, The 1970s: Part 2

    Carmen Herrera, The 1970s: Part 2

    15 April – 10 June 2023

  3. Carmen Herrera, The 1970s: Part 1

    Carmen Herrera, The 1970s: Part 1

    4 May – 11 June 2022

  4. Carmen Herrera: Painting in Process

    Carmen Herrera: Painting in Process

    10 September – 17 October 2020

  5. Carmen Herrera

    Carmen Herrera

    6 August – 10 August 2020

  6. Carmen Herrera: Estructuras

    Carmen Herrera: Estructuras

    14 September – 27 October 2018

  7. Carmen Herrera

    Carmen Herrera

    25 November 2017 – 17 February 2018

  8. Carmen Herrera: Paintings on Paper

    Carmen Herrera: Paintings on Paper

    3 May – 10 June 2017

  9. Carmen Herrera

    Carmen Herrera

    3 May – 11 June 2016

  10. Carmen Herrera: Works on Paper 2010 - 2012

    Carmen Herrera: Works on Paper 2010 - 2012

    25 January – 15 March 2013

  11. Carmen Herrera

    Carmen Herrera

    1 February – 3 March 2012

  12. Peter Joseph and Carmen Herrera

    Peter Joseph and Carmen Herrera

    23 November 2010 – 29 January 2011

Shop

  1. Carmen Herrera

    Carmen Herrera

  2. Estructuras

    Estructuras

  3. Painting in Process

    Painting in Process

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