Carmen Herrera is a Cuban-American abstract, minimalist painter. She was born in Havana and has lived in New York City since the mid-1950s. She studied alongside famous painters such as Ellsworth Kelly, but because she’s a woman her work and place in history wasn’t recognized wasn’t recognized until recently. Despite the lack of recognition, Herrera kept painting daily for 70 years, honing her aesthetic. This fabulous broad turned 100 in May 2015. As far as I know, she’s still painting.
These paintings seem simple, but to make them seems so bold it enters an area of complete mystery to me. One painting is 2 panels, the lower panel is completely white. The upper is white with a sliver of a green triangle. It’s perfect, and outrageously gutsy. It’s an excellent design, with the clear “less is more” taken to it’s farthest reach. Her paintings vibrate. “How do you choose your colors?” The documentary voice asks. “By how it effects the other color.” she responds earnestly. So – intuition from years of experimentation.
Watch the 29 minute documentary on Netflix: “The 100 Years Show.” 29 minutes is nothing. I want to spend all day with this woman. She is a 101 year old bad-ass.
My Paint Program Could Do That
Unfortunately the new version of “my kid could do that” appears to be “my computer paint program could do that.” It’s a shame that an artist’s ideas can so easily invoke the bitter anger of people who either don’t learn about the context of the ideas, don’t enjoy the ideas, or feel that somehow creative culture is harmed by someone else learning about or enjoying them.
I love Herrerra’s paintings. They are incredible feats of visual engineering. They have clarity, resolute refinement, simplicity, and joy. The paintings are portraits of a woman who absolutely floors me.
You don’t have to know about art, you don’t have to like it, and you don’t have to get it. But you do have to be curious about it, or at least accept that without curiosity or education (pick one if you can’t do both) you do not know enough to discount the lifetime of work by an important member of history. Below is a post from a person who says their computer can do what she does. “Herra vs MS.” Offensive as it is, the MS copy isn’t the same. It looks similar but they missed the part where no one had done it before, and where it was in the context of all the other work she did, and all the other work other painters did, and how it tied in with culture, history, aesthetics, surface, and personality. This copy was made by a person on a computer, an uncurious and offensive troll, not an actual educated (and delightful) person with a life story and an unstoppable investigation of form and color. Herrera worked tenaciously hard, she is an expert in her field, and the paintings vibrate. They hold your attention. Evidently they held this person’s attention too, they just didn’t quite understand why.
Below: pics from http://pretentiousart-