Lisson Gallery Milan presents an exhibition of new works on paper by Carmen Herrera. Herrera produced a number of paintings on paper throughout the 1960s, but subsequently focused on canvas until revisiting the medium in 2010. This new body of work showcases not only her revised treatment of the medium but also a new dimension to her work. There will be a catalogue of 42 works to accompany this exhibition with an essay written by Estrellita B. Brodsky.
Preparatory drawing lies at the core of Herrera’s practice and is the starting point for all her work. Herrera begins the process of making these paintings (comprising pencil and acrylic on paper) with mathematical drawings on tracing paper that are governed by lines, numbers and disciplined decisions. It is here that the compositional rationale and choice of colour are formulated. As the works shown here demonstrate, once translated onto larger paper, of two different sizes carrying the same proportions, her mathematical precision and clarity of vision are expressed through a variety of shapes, structures and spatial relationships.
Composed of reductive geometric forms, floating yet grounded on their white backgrounds, these works engage with a similar pictorial vocabulary to Herrera’s paintings on canvas. Here however, the arrangements are defined and contained within a frame inside the paper’s edge: the structures and blocks of colour are delineated and reined in by these parameters. Form defined by colour and its purification has been a central characteristic of Herrera’s work since she exhibited at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles between 1949 and 1953.
Untitled (2012) (fig.1) demonstrates Herrera’s mirroring and reversal that suggests an invisible line bisecting the work with perfect symmetry. Untitled (2012) appears as a solid white space fractured by a black void, or negative space, rendered in matt black gesso suggestive of a third dimension. As in much of Herrera’s work, this void, a space in which and over which the form lies, can be attributed to her architectural studies in Havana during 1937 and 1938.
In Untitled (2012) (fig.2) two shapes shift along the diagonal bisection of the paper, resulting in opposing green trapezoids expanding and diverging to the extremities of the pencil frame. The forms coalesce at the central point of the paper, held in tension and unexpected asymmetry.