Biography of Carmen Herrera
Though only achieving recognition in her later life, Carmen Herrera was deemed by the Observer as the “find of the decade” following a large-scale survey of her work in the UK. Influenced by her formal training in architecture, Carmen Herrera creates geometric, hard edged abstract paintings and is fascinated by interactions between space and color. Her work has largely been associated to the Op Art and Minimalism of artists of the likes of Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella.
Born in Havana, Cuba in 1915, Carmen Herrera was brought up in a family of seven children to parents working in journalism. From the age of eight, she was able to take private art lessons which provided her with the fundamentals of academic drawing which she has always used in her artistic process. Once finishing school, she then went on to study architecture, which she asserts had a fundamental impact on her work; “There, an extraordinary world opened up to me that never closed: the world of straight lines, which has interested me until this very this very day."
In the early 1940’s, Carmen Herrera moved to New York where she studied painting and printmaking at the Art Students League and the Brooklyn Museum respectively. Struggling to be featured in museum exhibitions in New York, Carmen Herrera left for Paris in 1948, which at the time was a melting pot of numerous artistic styles and movements, including influences from the Bauhaus and Russian Suprematism. In Paris, she refined her hard edge, non-objective style of painting and printmaking, though her male contemporary Ellsworth Kelly, also in Paris at the time, received considerably more recognition.
Due to financial difficulties, Herrera moved back to New York where she would continue to create without recognition—largely due to her gender, as well as the second-class status of Cubans in America. It was only in 2004 (at the age of 89), following an introduction to the owner of the Latin Collector Gallery in Manhattan, that Carmen Herrera received credit for being pioneering in her large scale geometric abstraction and bold color-schemes.
Carmen Herrera has since had major retrospectives at important institutions such as The Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York and the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf. Additionally, her work can be found in numerous public and private collections including the MoMA, New York, the Tate Modern, London, and The Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC. In her old age, the artist continues to live and work in New York today.