CARMEN HERRERA: COLOUR ME IN
25 September 2020 – 8 January 2021
The Perimeter is delighted to announce a forthcoming solo exhibition of the celebrated centenarian artist, Carmen Herrera – the first exhibition in London to be dedicated to Herrera’s work outside of presentations at her gallery, Lisson Gallery. Opening 25 September 2020, Carmen Herrera: Colour Me In presents an important body of work made between the mid 1980s and early 1990s that has rarely been shown in public and illuminates a period of the artist’s life-long experimentation in abstraction. The exhibition picks up from Herrera’s defining Whitney Museum survey of 2016, Lines of Sight, which presented works from the artist’s career until 1978.
Carmen Herrera said: ‘I'm honoured to be opening an exhibition in London again, a city that has always held a special place in my heart. I have fond memories of London, as my sister spent much of her life there, first as Cuba's cultural attaché and then as an air warden during the Blitz. The UK has been very supportive of my career over the decades, with many pivotal and personally rewarding moments in my life having taken place across the UK – from my IKON exhibition in Birmingham in 2009, to my first show with Lisson in 2011. I am pleased to be presenting these works from the 1980s and 1990s, in such a beautiful space, in London.’
Carmen Herrera: Colour Me In is the second solo artist presentation to be staged at The Perimeter, the private exhibition space opened by collector Alexander V. Petalas in 2018, showcasing work by leading contemporary artists. Presented across the four stories of the converted Bloomsbury warehouse, the exhibition includes eight paintings and four works on paper, some of which have never before been shown publicly. Two wall-based reliefs, which Herrera refers to as ‘estructuras’, also feature in the exhibition.
Herrera is renowned for her compositions of striking formal simplicity, with crisp lines and precise geometric forms demarcated in vibrant blocks of colour. Continuously seeking to reduce her visual vocabulary, since her mid-career Herrera has typically limited her palette to just two colours per painting. These contrasting planes create an optical rhythm, balanced in symmetry and asymmetry across the canvas. Herrera’s mastery of techniques of pure abstraction prefigured the minimalism of her contemporaries such as Ellsworth Kelly and Barnett Newman, although, being both a woman and designated as a ‘Latin American artist’, she waited considerably longer to receive due recognition for what is now regarded as ground-breaking work.
Born in Cuba in 1915, Herrera celebrated her 105th birthday in May this year. Her extraordinary artistic output began in 1940s post-war Paris and continued well into her years in New York, where she has lived and worked since 1954. Despite the longevity of her career, Herrera worked in relative obscurity until the mid-1980s when she received her first institutional show at The Alternative Museum, New York (1985). The 1980s marked a key moment in Herrera’s recognition within New York’s artistic community, with gallery representation by Ljubomir Rastovski from 1986 through the recommendation of another of the gallery’s artists, Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Over the following two decades, Herrera was featured in major group exhibitions at Rutgers University in New Jersey, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, as well as Artists Space and Dia Art Foundation in New York, among others. She also began to receive critical acclaim in New York during this period, with
New York Times writer Holland Cotter noting that Herrera "occupies an honourable place in postwar geometric painting." By 1998 her work was the subject of a solo exhibition at New York’s El Museo del Barrio.
These three-dimensional works – which Herrera initially began preparations for in the 1960s although they were only brought to realisation more recently – are based on paintings ‘really crying out to become sculpture’, as the artist has explained. These works marked an important moment in Herrera’s career, where her geometric forms traverse from drawing, to painting, to sculpture, manifesting her meticulous sharp edges into physical structures.
The exhibition focuses on Herrera's development as an artist in the decade following the mid 1980s. This early period is particularly notable for depicting forms suspended within the frame of a pictorial plain, a trait unique to this time. Herrera's work of the following decade, the 1990s, was an equally distinct moment in her career, marked not only for its rarity, as the last years with her husband, but as the first time she began to use shades of colours on top of each other: blue on blue, yellow on yellow, green on green. A series of drawings from the 1980s will be presented, illustrating how Herrera’s compositions take shape in different stages, setting out the lines and forms that determine the rhythm and spatial tension of her work. And while shape is integral, Herrera herself has explained, ‘colour is the essence of my painting’. Striking colour pairings range from the solid interlocking forms of Black & orange (1989) to more subtle tonal combinations, as evidenced in the tracked lines of Blues (1991) or Two Yellows (1992). ‘Shape, size and relative position, are called into question in each and every one of Herrera’s bi-coloured geometrical compositions’, writes curator Flavia Frigieri. The seeming symmetry of Herrera’s straight lines and angles is, on closer inspection, disrupted by a deliberate irregularity that renders her coloured planes as objects in themselves.
To accompany the exhibition, there will be a new publication and critical text written by Flavia Frigeri, art historian and curator, further illuminating the progression of the second half of Herrera’s life work.
Carmen Herrera: Colour Me In is staged with support from Lisson Gallery, who will also be presenting Herrera’s works in New York from 10 September 2020 in their exhibition Painting in Process.
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Exhibition: Carmen Herrera: Colour Me In
Dates: 25 September 2020 – 8 January 2021
Location: The Perimeter, 20 Brownlow Mews, London, WC1N 2LE
Travel: Russell Square, Chancery Lane, Kings Cross St Pancras or Holborn
Admission: Free via pre-booked appointments.
In accordance with government guidelines, all visitors are required to wear a mask and gloves, which will be available upon entry to the building along with hand sanitiser. To schedule your visit please email email@example.com.
Home to a private collection of contemporary art, The Perimeter is situated in a cobbled mews in Bloomsbury, London. The exhibition programme highlights works by leading contemporary artists, both local and international.
In addition to thematic group presentations based on the collection and beyond, past exhibitions have included Ron Nagle: Midnight Stroll – a presentation of 24 sculptures and 10 drawings by the artist generally considered to be the godfather of the West Coast ceramics scene.
About the artist
Carmen Herrera was born in Havana, Cuba in 1915. She moved frequently between France and Cuba throughout the 1930s and 1940s; having started studying architecture at the Universidad de La Habana, Havana, Cuba (1938–39), she trained at the Art Students League, New York, NY, USA (1942–43), before exhibiting five times at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France (1949–53). She settled in New York in 1954, where she continues to live and work. Herrera’s work was the subject of a large-scale survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (2017), which traveled to the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio (2017) and Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (K20) in Düsseldorf, Germany (2017–2018). A selection of Herrera's recent paintings and Estructuras inaugurated Lisson Gallery New York’s 24th Street exhibition space in May 2016. Herrera has also had solo exhibitions at Museum Pfalzgalerie Kaiserslautern, Kaiserslautern, Germany (2010); Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK (2009); and Museo del Barrio, New York, NY, USA (1998). She has been included in the group shows at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, USA (2017); The Underground Museum, Los Angeles, CA, USA (2017); Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany (2016); Phoenix Museum of Art, AZ, USA (2013); and Sheldon Museum of Art, NE, USA (2012), among others. In 2018, her work was featured in exhibitions ‘Géométries Sud, Du Mexique à la Terre de Feu’ at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris, France and ‘Epic Abstraction: Pollock to Herrera’ at The Met Breuer in New York.
Herrera was awarded two fellowships from the Cintas Foundation, New York, NY, USA (1966–68) and a grant by the Creative Artists Public Service, New York, NY, USA (1977). Her work is in numerous public and private collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA; the Tate Collection, London, UK; the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC, USA; The Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC, USA; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, USA; the Pérez Art Museum, Miami, FL, USA; the Institute of Fine Arts Boston, MA, USA; Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, Bentonville, AR, USA; Museum Pfalzgalerie Kaiserslautern, Kaiserslautern, Germany; and El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY, USA.