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nearly eight decades in the making

The Art of Carmen Herrera

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Cuban American artist, Carmen Herrera, had been painting for over seven decades when, in 2004 at the age of 89, she sold her very first piece. A little over a decade later, her works grace the annals of some of the world’s most important collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Smithsonian American Art Museum, DC, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York – where her work is currently on display through January 9th. The exhibit, entitled Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight, highlights pieces from the three decade period during which she developed her signature style (1948-1978). Shown here is a small glimpse into the art and life of an artist who is finally getting her due…

 

The Art of Carmen Herrera
Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Photo: Ronald Amstutz.

 

The art of Carmen Herrera
BORN IN HAVANA…

Cuba in 1915, Herrera was one of seven children – her father the founding editor of the newspaper El Mundo and her mother a reporter for the paper. As a young woman, Herrera studied architecture at the Universidad de La Habana, Havana but after one year of study, she left to marry American English teacher Jesse Loewenthal. In 1939 they moved to New York City where Herrera turned her eye to the arts – training at the Art Students League for several years.
Wednesday, 1978. Acrylic on canvas. Museum Pfalzgalerie Kaiserslautern, Germany, M 12-346. Photo courtesy Lisson Gallery © Carmen Herrera

 

The art of Carmen Herrera
Blanco y Verde, 1959. Acrylic on canvas. Whitney Museum of American Art. © Carmen Herrera; courtesy Lisson Gallery.

 

The Art of Carmen Herrera
AT THE CLOSE OF…

World War II, Herrera moved to Paris where she became part of the art scene – exhibiting alongside the likes of Theo van Doesburg, Max Bill and Piet Mondrian. This period, from 1948 – 1950, was a formative time for Herrera as she experimented with varying levels of abstraction – inching her way towards the visual language that would define the next half century of her work.
The Way, 1970. Acrylic on canvas. Private collection © Carmen Herrera; courtesy Lisson Gallery.

 

The art of Carmen Herrera
Green and Orange, 1958. Acrylic on canvas. Collection of Paul and Trudy Cejas. © Carmen Herrera. Photo: Chi Lam.

 

The Art of Carmen Herrera
BY THE MID 50s…

Herrera had returned to New York and, in the years that followed, fine tuned her style, continuing what she described as “a lifelong process of purification, a process of taking away what isn’t essential.”
Friday, 1978. Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery © Carmen Herrera.

 

The Art of Carmen Herrera
Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight exibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Photo: Ronald Amstutz.

 

Today, at the age of 101, Herrera still lives and works in New York City as she builds upon a body of work rich in life and history, depicted boldly through a careful choreography of sharp lines, strong colors, symmetry, asymmetry and moving displays of visual tension. After decades of being overlooked, perhaps in part due to her gender in part due to her Cuban background, Herrera stands as an inspiring example of perseverance recognized and ultimate proof in an adage she likes to cite… “if you wait for the bus, the bus will come.”

 

Photography courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

 

 

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