Lisson Gallery

'Carmen Herrera: Paintings on Paper' reviewed by David Ebony - The Brooklyn Rail

4 April 2024

“I like straight lines, I like angles, I like order,” Carmen Herrera remarked in a 1994 interview. “In this chaos that we live in, I like to put order. I guess that’s why I am a hard-edged painter, a geometric painter.” When she died in 2022, at age 106, the Cuban-born New-York-based artist left behind a legacy of a carefully calibrated singularity of vision. Her rigorous, reductive compositions typically employ only two colors and simple geometric forms—almost exclusively rectangles, triangles and trapezoids.

Within the tradition of hard-edge abstraction—from pioneers such as Malevich and Mondrian, to her contemporaries like Agnes Martin, Bridget Riley, and Ellsworth Kelly—Herrera’s contribution is distinct. In her work, she aims for a pure balance of line, form, color and structure. She focuses on achieving the maximum intensity in the compositions, and not on novel optical effects that may appear with certain contrasting color combinations—flickering after-images, for instance. Those circumstantial byproducts of the design and color, however, are certainly evident in some works, especially among the paintings on paper in this exhibition...

Carmen Herrera: Paintings on Paper features fifteen acrylic-on-paper compositions from 2018–22, all untitled, and most never-before shown. Making their public debut are some of the last works she produced. Like Mark Rothko’s paintings on paper, the subject of a traveling survey recently on view at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, Herrera’s are not studies for canvases. They are wholly realized compositions, complete visual statements unto themselves. All of the paper paintings here are medium-size (averaging 20 by 30 inches), and most are horizontal compositions with the image precisely centered on the sheet. Colors are solid and unmodulated, using masking tape, brushes and rollers to arrive at a dense, impenetrable hue, and no gestures or signs of human touch are evident in the works.

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'Carmen Herrera: Paintings on Paper' reviewed by David Ebony - The Brooklyn Rail
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