Carmen Herrera

"‘Only my love of the straight line keeps me going." Carmen Herrera

Born May 31, 1915, in Havana, Cuba, Carmen Herrera is still actively working, painting every day in her New York studio. This presentation of approximately 50 works spans 3 decades of Herrera's work, beginning with the early abstractions she made while living in Paris in the years following World War II. During that time Herrera forged a geometric hard-edged style that she has retained to this day, employing a distilled palette of just 2 or3 colors for each composition. (

As a woman and as a Cuban-born artist, Herrara was obviously treated unjustly by the art world in the period covered by this show [1948 to 1978]. Complementing the Whitney’s belated attention, in a well-meaning act of reparation, Herrera is being much praised in the media. She certainly is a gifted artist—anyone can see that. But because this relatively small exhibition, which certainly doesn’t present her entire career, or even, so I imagine, identify her starting point, offers such a limited selection of her art, it’s impossible to offer a confident, critical evaluation. Compare, for example, her Green and Orange (1958) in this exhibition with the very similar-looking works by Ellsworth Kelly and other American men or women. Her picture is impressive, but it’s hard to place. How original was she? Did she borrow from Kelly, or did he learn from her? A third, tantalizing possibility is that they arrived at their results independently. (

Every review of Carmen Herrera’s early to mid-career retrospective at the Whitney will necessarily begin by noting how long overdue this exhibition is.... at 101, she was certainly made to wait her turn.... a quick check of the dates shows that Herrera often got there way ahead of the pack. (
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laura sunyer


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