Open: Tue-Sat 10am-6pm

504 West 24th Street, NY 10011, New York, United States
Open: Tue-Sat 10am-6pm


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Carmen Herrera: Paintings on Paper

Lisson Gallery W 24th St, New York

Thu 7 Mar 2024 to Sat 13 Apr 2024

504 West 24th Street, NY 10011 Carmen Herrera: Paintings on Paper

Tue-Sat 10am-6pm

Artist: Carmen Herrera

Opening: Thursday 7 March, 6pm-8pm

Lisson Gallery presents an exhibition of paintings on paper by Carmen Herrera (1915–2022), all made within the last ten years of her life. These hard-edge geometric compositions rendered in two or three bold hues reveal the late artist's mastery of color and form.

Originally trained as an architect at Universidad de la Habana in 1938–39, Herrera considered drawing an essential element of her practice. By the final decade of her creative output, she had refined her painting practice into a rigorous three-part process. First, Herrera would draft rough sketches with rulers, pencils and colored marker pens on gridded paper. She then translated these preliminary drawings into more formal paintings of acrylic on paper, adjusting the forms and colors such that they became fixed compositions. Finally, some of these works on paper would be copied into scaled-up paintings on canvas, while others would undergo further modifications of color, structure, and orientation.

The works here on view represent the most comprehensive survey to date of Herrera’s paintings on paper, offering a window onto some of the core themes and formal devices of a career which spanned seven decades. Two works of particular note for their use of three colors, rather than two, are Untitled (2017) and Untitled (2018). While Herrera’s more iconic dichromatic paintings predominated from the late 1950s onwards, the use of three colors notes a return to her Paris years (1948–53), a formative period in the artist’s development. Also included are a number of works which make use of her signature pairings of white and green (blanco y verde) or white and black (blanco y negro). One such white and black work, Untitled (2012), consists of two slender, horizontal black rectangles which mirror each other along the bias of the painting, their opposite corners meeting at the center point of the picture plane. The work is an almost exact replica, rotated 90 degrees to the left, of a larger, vertically-oriented painting on canvas, Untitled (1970). This slight variation of the same formal configuration and color scheme employed four decades prior highlights Herrera’s approach to her practice as a process of continual iteration and refinement.

This selection of works speak to another ongoing preoccupation in Herrera’s oeuvre: the persistent tension between symmetry and asymmetry as two distinct modes of her geometric abstraction. While some achieve perfectly balanced, stable arrangements, others convey a dynamic sense of movement and imbalance with sharp zigzags and wedges, oblique slants or rectilinear forms placed askew. Both modes of composition display Herrera’s keen attunement to the interplay of positive and negative space through opposing planes of color. As records of the moment when a composition first becomes “fixed,” the paintings on paper testify to the mature artist’s deftness of hand and eye – her ability to distill the infinite potentials of color, shape and structure down to their essence. As Herrera says of her own work, “I began a lifelong process of purification, of taking away what isn’t essential.”

This presentation coincides with the exhibition 'Carmen Herrera: I am Nobody! Who are you?' at SITE Santa Fe (1 March – 16 September 2024), which will also focus on works from the final decade of Herrera's practice. From 20 April, work by Herrera will also feature in ‘Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere’, curated by Adriano Pedroso, at the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.

all images © the gallery and the artist(s)

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