Lisson Gallery debuts in Los Angeles with a special exhibition of Carmen Herrera consisting of her Days of the Week series, seven paintings that evoke the distinctive character of each day. The exhibition is the second part of a presentation focused on her work from the 1970s, following Part 1 that was on view in New York in May 2022. The Days of the Week paintings were last exhibited together in Herrera’s solo touring museum show, Lines of Sight, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH; and K20: Kunstsammlung Nordrhein Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany (2016-2018). Carmen Herrera, The 1970s: Part 2 – also the first solo exhibition in Los Angeles for Herrera – marks a parallel with Lisson Gallery’s opening in New York in 2016, which was inaugurated by a selection of recent paintings and sculptures by the artist. To celebrate the opening of the Los Angeles gallery, a monumental Estructura by Herrera is also installed in the front courtyard.Read more
Carmen Herrera’s work in the 1970s, one of the least-explored decades of the artist’s career, can be characterized by her reluctance to follow any principal art movements of the time, such as the prevalent, male-dominated Minimalism of the era. Moreover, despite her stylistic links to Latin American and European Constructivism and Concrete Art, Mondrian's Neo-Plasticism and the Abstraction-Création movement, Herrera never considered herself part of any specific art historical category. Herrera focused instead on sharpening the geometric lyricism and vibrant abstractions for which she is now known, affiliating herself with pure Modernism, which more closely reflects the principles and fundamentals of the International Style of architecture.
Herrera worked in relative obscurity amongst the US art world during this era, while her early fascination with architecture grew as her shapes became harder and more formal. The artist’s bold colors are articulated by her structure, allowing the color and linear forms to pop from the surface of the canvas. Herrera's utilization of the side of the canvas, which she viewed as equally crucial as the frontal plane, strengthens the architectural sensibility within her painting. The surfaces reach beyond the edges of the canvas and meld into the wall. Herrera meticulously planned each shape on the canvas, their respective lengths and density, according to the relationship between each coupling of colors. The strict exchange between color and form emphasized in Herrera’s painting is on full display in her Days of the Week series.
The Days of the Week paintings, a rare series within her oeuvre, began with the completion of Blue Monday in 1972. It is the only work out of the seven to include color in the title as well as the only canvas positioned with a horizonal orientation. The title of the work alludes to the common feeling with which the start of the work week is recognized. Moving forward through the week, deep hues of green, yellow, orange and red are pressed tightly against the black. The series pivots between recurring motifs within her compositions – such as the chevron in Wednesday, Friday and Sunday (all 1978) and what can be classified as a lightning bolt in Saturday (1978). While the works in the exhibition highlight the tenacity of Herrera’s sharp edges, the location of black on the canvases complicates what may be the foreground and what may be behind. Offering the impression of three-dimensional structure, Thursday (1975) features yellow across two full edges of the canvas that may provide a forefront for the black shape, while in Sunday red seemingly relegates the black to the top and bottom of the surface. Art historian Briony Fer writes: “The diagonal cuts in the compositions create jagged shapes or triangles, depending on which colour is perceived as the more dominant. For example, the yellow appears to dominate the black in Tuesday, whereas the black trumps the green in Wednesday.”
Situated outside the gallery, Angulo Amarillo (2017) was selected by Herrera with a surrounding setting in mind. Based on paintings “really crying out to become sculpture”, Herrera’s Estructuras represent a rare break from the rectangular container of the artist’s paintings and place her work in conversation with the natural environment. Moving from painting to sculpture, the physical manifestation of her forms conveys movement and rhythm though a careful geometric balance of lines and color. Works from this series have previously been exhibited in City Hall Park, New York, NY; Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston; TX; Poydras Corridor Sculpture Exhibition, New Orleans, LO and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA. A forthcoming solo exhibition of these sculptures will open at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens in Nashville, TN in May of this year.
The second of two new essays by Briony Fer accompanies the exhibition. The full discourse will be included in Carmen Herrera’s forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné. Fer has written extensively on modern and contemporary art. Her research interests have consistently moved between the history of the avant-gardes and the work of contemporary artists, including Zoe Leonard, Gabriel Orozco, Roni Horn, Vija Celmins and Tacita Dean. She is Professor of History of Art at University College London and a Fellow of the British Academy.