Carmen Herrera - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, May 14, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Lisson Gallery, London
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2014

  • Catalogue Essay

    “My quest is for the simplest of pictorial resolutions.” – Carmen Herrera

    Exemplifying Carmen Herrera’s hard-edge, minimalist aesthetic, Untitled encapsulates the richly colored verve and precision the artist is known for. Painted in 2013, Untitled presents a powerful continuation of the artist’s seminal Blanco y Verde series, now widely celebrated as Herrera’s most significant body of work in her 80-year career and instantly recognizable for its color fields activated by white and green triangular forms. Breaking ground at the same time as artists such as Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly, Herrera's Blanco y Verde series, 1959-1971, formed a focal point of the 2016 exhibition Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York that was key in confirming the artist's justly deserved place as a landmark post-war abstractionist. Reprising the key tenets of this series more than four decades later at age 74, Herrera, with Untitled, masterfully demonstrates the unabated rigor of her practice.

    A perfectly calibrated force field of pure form and color, Untitled speaks of Herrera’s goal of foregrounding the materiality of the canvas and distilling the composition to its purest essentials. While focusing the viewer’s attention on the materiality of the painting-as-object, the triangular forms of her Blanco y Verde series also appear as if cut in the canvas. In the present work, the isometric triangle stretching across the center of the composition resembles a precisely delineated cut – suggesting a depth that projects beyond the confines of the picture plane in a manner that echoes Lucio Fontana’s Spatial Concepts. Untitled powerfully articulates Herrera’s desire to transform abstract line into three-dimensional form, which had driven her to further develop the Blanco y Verde painting in sculptural form.

    According to Herrera, the Blanco y Verde paintings were “really crying out to become sculpture” (Carmen Herrera, quoted in Dana Miller, “Carmen Herrera: Sometimes I Win", in Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2016, p. 30). Paintings such as the present one are closely linked to the monochromatic Estructuras (Structures) sculptures Herrera began creating in the late 1960s, but were not fully realized in their entirety until 2012. Executed a year later, Untitled demonstrates the fruits of Herrera’s prolonged process between painting and sculpture. In the words of art critic Robert Storr, “Maybe one should think of Herrera’s drawings and paintings…as jewels mined from an apparently inexhaustible seam of crystals that, once brought to light from the depths of her imagination, never fail to sparkle and surprise” (Robert Storr, “Abstraction’s Miraculous Perennial”, in Carmen Herrera, exh. cat., Lisson Gallery, London, 2016, p. 27).

  • Artist Biography

    Carmen Herrera

    Cuban / American • 1915

    Carmen Herrera is finally receiving long-deserved recognition for her arresting, hard-edge geometric compositions. Born in Havana in 1915, Herrera spent much of the 1930s and 1940s between Paris and Cuba before settling permanently in New York in 1954. Initially trained as an architect at the Universidad de la Habana, Herrera later studied at the Art Students League in New York City from 1943 to 1947. She received recognition for her artistic accomplishments in postwar Paris, exhibiting alongside Theo van Doesburg, Max Bill, and Piet Mondrian, but was long overlooked upon her return to the male-dominated New York art world. Despite breaking ground simultaneously with her peers, Barnett Newman and Leon Polk Smith, Herrera was often sidelined as a woman and a Latin American artist.

    Herrera's work is chiefly concerned with formal simplicity and experimentation with bold color. Through the use of sharp lines and stark color contrasts, she creates dynamic and technically sophisticated compositions that reflect movement, balance and symmetry.

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signed and dated "Carmen Herrera - 2013" on the stretcher
acrylic on canvas
20 1/8 x 20 1/8 x 2 1/2 in. (51 x 51 x 6.5 cm.)
Painted in 2013.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $275,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 15 May | On View at 432 and 450 Park Avenue