At age 104, painter Carmen Herrera expands her canvas

At age 104, painter Carmen Herrera expands her canvas

Painter Carmen Herrera, who recently turned 104, has landed her first major public art exhibition in New York City.

Presented by Public Art Fund, the outdoor installation, titled “Estructuras Monumentales,” features large-scale, monochromatic sculptures scattered within City Hall Park and runs through Nov. 8, 2019.

"Angulo Rojo," Carmen Herrera, 2017. On view as part of "Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales," presented by Public Art Fund at City Hall Park. © Carmen Herrera. Courtesy: Lisson Gallery.
“Angulo Rojo,” Carmen Herrera, 2017. On view as part of “Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales,” presented by Public Art Fund at City Hall Park. © Carmen Herrera. Courtesy: Lisson Gallery.

“Carmen Herrera has finally received the well-deserved art historical recognition that she is due,” Public Art Fund curator Daniel S. Palmer told ALL ARTS. “We are honored to have worked with and helped Carmen achieve her dream project of creating the large-scale ‘Estructuras’ that she first envisioned over 50 years ago. Carmen has been a New Yorker since the 1950s, so it is even more meaningful that we are able to share her beautiful sculptures for the first time with public audiences at City Hall Park.”

Though Herrera’s career spans seven decades, it has only been within the latter half that she has received mass attention for her bold, geometric works. In 2016, Herrera, then 101, had a solo show at the Whitney Museum, marking the first time the artist was shown in a major New York City gallery. The exhibition, “Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight,” brought together more than 50 items that spanned from 1948 to 1978, including pieces from her seminal series “Blanco y Verde” (1959-1971).

Portrait of Carmen Herrera, 2018. Photo: Liz Ligon. Courtesy: Public Art Fund, NY.
Portrait of Carmen Herrera, 2018. Photo: Liz Ligon. Courtesy: Public Art Fund, NY.

The Public Art Fund’s exhibition represents a homecoming for the Cuban-born artist, who has resided in New York City since 1954. The installation features two works that are making their United States debut and three sculptures that are borne from the artist’s previous drawings. Large in format, the sculptures vary in size, stretching at their most extreme lengths to seven feet high and 12 feet wide.

“Informed by her architectural training, Herrera began the series in the 1960s with a group of diagrammatic sketches,” the Public Art Fund said in the exhibition description. “She envisioned large-scale monochromatic sculptures that would extend the experience of her luminous paintings into three dimensions.”

"Amarillo Tres," Carmen Herrera, 1971/2018. On view as part of "Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales," presented by Public Art Fund at City Hall Park. © Carmen Herrera. Courtesy: Lisson Gallery.
“Amarillo Tres,” Carmen Herrera, 1971/2018. On view as part of “Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales,” presented by Public Art Fund at City Hall Park. © Carmen Herrera. Courtesy: Lisson Gallery.
"Untitled Estructura (Red)," Carmen Herrera, 1962/2018. On view as part of "Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales," presented by Public Art Fund at City Hall Park. © Carmen Herrera. Courtesy: Lisson Gallery.
“Untitled Estructura (Red),” Carmen Herrera, 1962/2018. On view as part of “Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales,” presented by Public Art Fund at City Hall Park. © Carmen Herrera. Courtesy: Lisson Gallery.

Among the works included is “Angulo Rojo,” a chevron-shaped aluminum structure coated in red acrylic paint. Situated within a pedestrian walk-way, the bright A-framed sculpture seems to float on its rectangle pedestal, just above the surrounding foot traffic. The Public Art Fund described the work as presenting “both the solidity of a sculptural object and the weightlessness of a celestial shape ascending towards the sky.”

In contrast to the lightness of “Angulo Rojo,” Herrera’s three new works included in the exhibition — titled “Estructura Verde,” “Amarillo Tres” and “Untitled Estructura,” respectively — burst onto the landscape as hefty blocks of color. Based on paintings from the 1960s and 1970s, the three-dimensional pieces feature interlocking components that hover around each other, creating caverns of empty space between some of the shapes and thin slivers of light between others.

"Estructura Verde," Carmen Herrera, 1971/2018. On view as part of "Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales," presented by Public Art Fund at City Hall Park. © Carmen Herrera. Courtesy: Lisson Gallery.
“Estructura Verde,” Carmen Herrera, 1971/2018. On view as part of “Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales,” presented by Public Art Fund at City Hall Park. © Carmen Herrera. Courtesy: Lisson Gallery.

Rounding out the exhibition is a rectangular blue sculpture called “Pavanne.” Composed of three pieces placed closely together, the work was created from a drawing made in 1967 as a memorial to her brother who had cancer. The piece is placed, according to an announcement, in a grove within the park to “encourage quiet contemplation.”

Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales” is on view at City Hall Park through Nov. 8, 2019.

Top Image: "Pavanne," Carmen Herrera, 1967/2017. On view as part of "Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales," presented by Public Art Fund at City Hall Park. © Carmen Herrera. Courtesy: Lisson Gallery.