An exhibition of recent abstract paintings by Carmen Herrera will inaugurate Lisson Gallery’s first permanent exhibition space in New York, during Frieze week.
Despite only coming to the attention of a wider art world a decade or so ago, Herrera has been painting for almost eighty years and continues to do so from her studio in Manhattan, in the same city she has lived in since 1954, although her first stay began in 1939. While Herrera’s innovative and historic achievements as an artist are being honoured with a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in fall 2016, Lisson Gallery is unveiling 20 major works produced over the past two years.
After abandoning a surrealistic, biomorphic style in the late 1940s, Herrera’s work has remained uncompromisingly abstract and minimal ever since – although the hard-edge, rectilinear qualities of her paintings are, on closer inspection, belied by their obviously hand-painted expanses of color. This exhibition of recent work also characterizes Herrera’s mastery of larger scale canvases, often including subtle incorporations of diptych or triptych configurations. In addition to the inclusion of recurring motifs within her compositions – such as the chevron, the chequerboard reversal and numerous, varying triangular and quadrangular forms – Herrera continues to introduce novel conjunctions of form and line while further innovating in terms of color. In contrast to previous series, for example, Herrera has employed a third color plane into individual works for the first time since the 1950s, although this manifests itself as areas of raw canvas, adding surface texture and suggesting a neutrality or ambiguous status to this intruder.
Similarly, Herrera’s command of pictorial space is consistent with her career to-date. Yet she is also prone to occasional shifts in perspective, with some of the surfaces apparently tilting, projecting or receding within the frame. Ultimately, each canvas is tautly composed and finely balanced, maintaining pictorial integrity and chromatic intensity at all times. Given her stylistic connections to Latin American and European Constructivism and Concrete Art, as well as Mondrian’s Neo-Plasticism and the Abstraction-Création movement in Paris, it is telling that Herrera has never identified with any art historical grouping, even though she lived in Havana, Paris and New York in the 1930s and ’40s when many of these artistic associations were being formed. Being neither gender- nor nationality-specific as an artist, Herrera’s only true affiliation is with pure Modernism, perhaps reflecting the ethos and underpinnings of the International Style of architecture as much as any era of art production.
- Carmen Herrera. Courtesy of Lisson Gallery