Carmen Herrera - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, November 16, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Breaking Out: The Transcendence of Women in Latin American Art

    The Head of our Latin American Sale Kaeli Deane discusses the incredible worldwide surge in recognition being given to female artists from Latin America, focusing here on Carmen Herrera, Lygia Papa in Mira Schendel. Moreover, and even paradoxically, it is the fact that these women have transcended both their gender and nationality to become regarded simply as world-class artists after decades of working towards just that. Each of these incredible women are subjects of their own major retrospectives in 2016 and 2017: Carmen Herrera at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Lygia Pape at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Mira Schendel at the Tate Modern in London.

  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

  • Literature

    Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2016, p. 164 (illustrated titled as Cerulean Blue)

  • Catalogue Essay

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

    At age 101, Carmen Herrera is having a moment. Closely associated with other masters of geometric abstraction such as Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly, Herrera is currently the subject of a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art – long overdue recognition of the artist’s significance in the art historical canon.

    Cerulean, 1965, is a pristine example of Carmen Herrera’s seven-decade career. Describing her paintings as “cut in space,” Cerulean incorporates two of Herrera’s most significant artistic discoveries: the hand-painted frame and the dynamic diamond shape, which creates a feeling of three dimensional projection and levitation of form. As the curator Dana Miller wrote: “The shapes and mechanics of balance vary from composition to composition…They slip between two and three dimensions, and that tension is the source of tremendous power. . .Had acrylic paint not arrived at the exact moment she was refining her process, she would not have created works of such precision, and had she not acquired elementary architectural drafting skills, she would not have been able to render three-dimensional structures…she was at various points in the right place, but before her time….we are now playing catch-up to her, acknowledging today what should have been obvious and valued half a century ago.” (Dana Miller, Carmen Herrera, Lines of Sight, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2016, p. 35-37)

    The Cuban-born Herrera, who studied in Paris and exhibited alongside Piet Mondrian, eventually settled in New York in the 1950s, befriending Barnett Newman, Leon Polk Smith and Wilfredo Lam. While Cuba would remain central to her identity, she hasn’t returned since 1963. With her brother imprisoned and her mother ill, her output dropped dramatically. But starting in 1965, the year of the present lot, Herrera began a remarkable resurgence by expanding her hard-edge abstract vocabulary into shaped canvases of circles and diamonds. Most likely, Herrera was responding to the trauma of leaving Cuba behind by creating soothing abstract compositions.

    Herrera’s early interest in wood carving and architecture clearly informed her signature style. Calling architecture her “first love,” the discipline contributed to the three dimensional structure of her canvases, whose sides are always painted, lifting them away from the wall. Herrera painted every edge or handmade slated frame, as seen in Cerulean. By incorporating hand-painted “framing” as part of her process, Herrera prevented poor framing choices that could have been made by collectors or galleries. The first canvas with a slated frame was an Untitled piece from 1952, which now resides as part of The Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection.

  • Artist Biography

    Carmen Herrera

    Cuban / American • 1915

    At the age of 101, Carmen Herrera is finally receiving long-deserved recognition for her arresting, hard-edge geometric compositions. Born in Cuba in 1915, Herrera has spent most of her life outside the island, permanently settling in New York in the mid-1950s. Herrera was formally trained as an architect at the Universidad de la Habana, and later completed studies at the Art Students League in New York from 1943 to 1945. During this time she became acquainted with key figures of postwar abstraction including Barnett Newman, whose work undoubtedly influenced Herrera's minimalist aesthetic.

    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, titled and dated ""CERULEAN" Carmen Herrera - 1965" on the reverse
acrylic on canvas, in artist's frame
69 x 68 1/2 in. (175.3 x 174 cm.)
Painted in 1965.

$600,000 - 800,000 

Sold for $970,000

Contact Specialist
Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1267

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 16 November 5 PM EST