Carmen Herrera: Painting in Process
10 September – 21 October 2020
Lisson Gallery is pleased to present a selection of works by Carmen Herrera from the past decade, entitled Painting in Process. Since her time in post-war Paris when she first developed her signature hard-edged style, Herrera has instilled a rigorous practice to create her distinctive body of work. This will be the first time her painting process has been examined and shown publicly, and the exhibition also marks the first presentation of her paintings in New York since the gallery’s opening in the city in 2016.
Carmen Herrera has often noted that her identity and visual language were shaped during the formative years she spent in Paris in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The origins of her process, however, trace back to her early studies in architecture at Universidad de La Habana in Cuba (1938-1939). She often credits this training as where she learned to draw and to think abstractly, stating “I wouldn’t paint the way I do if I hadn’t gone to architecture school.” Working in this method, Herrera begins every work with a sketch on gridded paper, using a ruler or triangle to create structure and divide space. In the sketching phase, Herrera also selects the colors she will apply, always with careful consideration of their relationship so that no one hue is more dominant than the other. Color cannot be separated from form, and by laying out the different compositions and colors in these initial drawings, she works through many possibilities, breaking down her options by process of elimination. When the framework is established, Herrera then proceeds with a formal painting on paper. Here, she further refines the composition by introducing acrylic paint. The painting on paper may then be translated to canvas, with occasional slight adjustments in orientation to account for the larger scale.
While Herrera’s process is often characterized by meticulous constraint and distillation of choice, it is perhaps best described as a perfect synergy of artistic and scientific creativity. The three-staged approach creates greater potentiality for change throughout a painting’s creation. Each step adds an additional, but manageable, level of complexity, and within each progression, Herrera is able to re-examine and re-evaluate each decision, continuously building upon what she has learned in the stage prior. Thus, no painting is complete without the ideas that were explored in the painting on paper and sketch which came before.
Herrera’s work is the subject of several additional solo exhibitions this autumn, including Colour Me In, an exhibition of important and rarely seen works made in the mid 1980s and early 1990s, at The Perimeter in London, as well as two simultaneous presentations in Houston, Texas hosted by Buffalo Bayou Partnership and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Organized with Public Art Fund following the successful presentation in City Hall Park last year, Estructuras Monumentales in Buffalo Bayou Park marks the first time the large-scale outdoor sculptures will be shown outside of New York City and includes two never before seen works. At the MFA Houston, Structuring Surfaces will include a survey of over 30 works from the 1960s to the present, highlighting the central role that the Estructuras played in her artistic development.
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