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"The show presents her as an artist of formidable discipline, consistency and clarity of purpose, and a key player in any history of postwar art."—New York Times
Celebrate the extraordinary artistic vision of Carmen Herrera—a groundbreaking Cuban-born, New York–based artist—in the first museum survey of her work in nearly two decades. Although Herrera's distilled, geometric style emerged concurrently with but independently of other vanguard, mid-20th-century artists like Ellsworth Kelly, for many years her masterful work has not received the critical attention it merits. Discover her genius for yourself in this much-lauded exhibition that makes its only stop outside of New York at the Wex.
Featuring more than 50 works, Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight focuses on the artist's work from 1948 to 1978, when she developed the signature hard-edged style that she continues to employ today at the age of 101. Displayed chronologically, the exhibition begins with paintings made while Herrera was in Paris (1948–54), works that echo cubist innovations of the early 20th century in a postwar context. Herrera unflinchingly continued to explore geometry, space, and the line in increasingly spare and refined compositions as she returned to New York in 1954, when Abstract Expressionism reigned supreme. You'll also see stunning works from Herrera's Blanco y Verde series (1959–71) and her dynamic Days of the Week series (1975–78), which illustrates her deft play with figure-ground relationships, as well as wooden sculptural "estructuras" that reveal her deep interest in architecture.
Narrator: "Escorial is a clear reference to a building, San Lorenzo de El Escorial in Spain. This is a building that particularly appealed to Herrera. She said that she felt at home there. It's famous for its very clear geometry, for its lack of ornamentation, for its very stark lines. And given Herrera's predilection for clean lines and clear geometries, it's not a surprise that she would gravitate towards this building.
The building was made in honor of Saint Lawrence, San Lorenzo, who was famously martyred by being, I guess the crude way to say was grilled, barbecued on a gridiron. The building, Escorial, is designed so that the floor plan resembles a gridiron.
And that is what Herrera is referencing here with this arrangement of black and white forms. And when Herrera talks about this work, it's often with a little bit of a smile, a wry sense of humor that she's created a very simple geometric, clean, spare painting but that it's a barbecue, as she says.
Herrera has continued to develop her pictorial language for more than forty years.
Carmen Herrera: 'When I was younger, nobody knew I was a painter. Now they’re beginning to know I’m a painter. I waited a long time. There is a saying. If you wait for the bus, the bus will come. I say, yeah. I wait almost a century for the bus to come (laughs). And it came! (laughs harder)'
Narrator: Herrera's still working almost every day in her studio. She gets up, and she goes to her drawing table near the window, and gets out her pencils, and her rulers, and stack of tracing paper, and starts working through various compositional iterations. For her, she says it's the beauty of the straight line that keeps her going.
Experience the entire tour—and exhibition—in person at the Wexner Center for the Arts through April 16.
Spanish transcript available upon request.
Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight is organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Installation view of Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight at the Wexner Center
Installation view of Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight at the Wexner Center. Photo by Katie Spengler.
Carmen Herrera, Blanco y Verde, 1959. Acrylic on canvas, two panels: 68 1/8 × 60 1/2 in overall. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee 2014.63 © Carmen Herrera; courtesy Lisson Gallery.
Carmen Herrera, Equation, 1958. Acrylic on canvas with painted frame
24 x 42 in. Collection of Stanley Stairs and Leslie Powell © Carmen Herrera, courtesy Ikon Gallery
SUPPORT FOR FREE AND LOW-COST PROGRAMS
Cardinal Health Foundation
GENERAL OPERATING SUPPORT FOR THE WEXNER CENTER
Greater Columbus Arts Council
Ohio Arts Council
The Columbus Foundation
Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight