Carmen Herrera. Untitled. 1952

Carmen Herrera Untitled 1952

  • MoMA, Floor 4, 406 The David Geffen Galleries

Herrera’s life is divided between Cuba and New York, but it was in Paris that her work took its most decisive turn. In dialogue with older avant-garde artists like Piet Mondrian as well as artists of her own generation, like Ellsworth Kelly, whose work took a similar turn in Paris, Herrera developed a visual language of hard edges, limited colors, and simple geometric shapes. Her breakthrough moment arrived via three black-and-white paintings—including Untitled—with which she announced her dedication to the stark abstraction that would become her lifelong calling. Afterward, she said, “I never met a straight line I did not like.”

Gallery label from "Collection 1940s—1970s", 2019

To make this work, Herrera painted vertical bands of black and white at varying lengths and with diagonal breaks that create a two-tone zigzag pattern. She extended her pattern to the face and sides of the frame, giving the object a sense of dynamic totality. "I began a lifelong process of purification, a process of taking away what isn't essential," she explained. Although active in Paris and New York from the late 1940s on, she did not sell a painting until 2004, at the age of eighty-nine. She has recalled that one dealer bluntly told her, "You can paint circles around the male artists that I have, but I'm not going to give you a show because you're a woman."

Gallery label from Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction, April 19 - August 13, 2017.
Medium
Acrylic on canvas
Dimensions
25 x 60" (63.5 x 152.4 cm)
Credit
Gift of Agnes Gund and Tony Bechara
Object number
972.2005
Department
Painting and Sculpture

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