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    "I like yellow and I like lines...[and] for me, black is all the colors somehow. The other colors are like a decoration."
    —Carmen Herrera

     

     

    The artist with the present work. Image: © Stefan Ruiz, Artwork: © Carmen Herrera

    The artist with the present work. Image: Stefan Ruiz © Telegraph Media Group Limited 2021, Artwork: © Carmen Herrera

     

     

    A stunning mature work hailing from Carmen Herrera’s renowned oeuvre of geometric, minimalist paintings, Amarillo y Negro is an exemplary culmination of the artist’s lifelong path to perfecting her singular vision of hard-edge abstraction. Spanning six feet in length, the present work depicts a large, yellow form cutting through the center of the composition. Set against an expanse of pitch-black darkness, the razor-sharp zigzag at once appears fixed and floating in space, enveloping the viewer in a pulsing oscillation between figure and ground, color and line.

     

     

    "The initial point of departure in my work is a process of organization that follows the dictates of reason...It is a process that must choose, among innumerable possibilities, the one that balances reason and visual execution."
    —Carmen Herrera

     

     

    Herrera’s rigorous practice of hard-edge abstraction developed between New York and Paris during the pinnacle of the 20th century European and American avant-garde. Herrera moved to New York with her husband in 1939 and enrolled in the Art Students League, where she closely befriended Barnett Newman and Leon Polk Smith. Herrera recalled, “We spoke about the nature of abstraction, its very essence. Barney felt strongly that abstraction needed a mythological or religious basis; I, on the other hand, wanted something clearer, less romantic and dark.”i

     

     

    [left] Mark Rothko, Untitled (Black, Pink, Yellow Over Orange), 1950-51. Artwork: © Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), Courtesy of The Mark Rothko Foundation [right] Piet Mondrian, Composition in White, Red, and Yellow, 1936. Los Angeles County Museum of Art

    [left] Mark Rothko, No. 18 (Black, Orange on Maroon), 1963. Artwork: © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), Courtesy of The Mark Rothko Foundation [right] Piet Mondrian, Composition in White, Red, and Yellow, 1936. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Image: © Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Collection (63.14)

     

     

    This empirical sensibility carried through to her time in Paris from 1948 to 1953, when she began exhibiting alongside artists including Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg, and Josef Albers at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles. Gravitating towards a more constructivist vocabulary, Herrera gradually stripped her paintings down to the essentials of geometry and color over the following decades, resulting in the formidable precision and arresting simplicity mastered in Amarillo y Negro.

     

     

    "Color is the essence of my painting. What starts to happen to it as you reduce its numbers and come down to two colors, then there is a subtlety, an intensity in the way two colors relate to each other."
    —Carmen Herrera

     

     

    Despite facing the prevalence of Abstract Expressionism upon her return to New York in 1954, Herrera was resolute in refining her minimalist and rational aesthetic, working in relative isolation as an immigrant, female artist in a male-dominated art scene. As she continued to hone the structural and spatial articulations between simplified shapes and color, her investigations bloomed onto a monumental scale, allowing her the space to dissolve the distinction between color and form by making color her form.

     

     

    Clyfford Still, 1957-D No. 1, 1957. Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, Image: Albright-Knox Art Gallery / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © City and County of Denver / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Clyfford Still, 1957-D No. 1, 1957. Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, Image: Albright-Knox Art Gallery / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © City and County of Denver / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

     

     

    Here, the sharp angles of the yellow block meet the black field in a perfect lock-in-key fit, their interlocking planes and chromatic intensity generating a sensorial Op-Art effect that belies the flatness of the composition. This visual tension stretches the field of vision in both the second and third dimensions, the two colors suggestively expanding beyond the edges of the canvas laterally whilst projecting back and forth into the viewer’s space in an illusionistic dance. “There is nothing I love more than to make a straight line. How can I explain it? It’s the beginning of all structures, really,” Herrera elucidates.ii “My quest is for the simplest of pictorial resolutions.”iii

     

     

    Collector’s Digest

     

    •    The acclaimed 2015 documentary, The 100 Years Show, played a major role in reinvigorating interest in the artist’s work, which culminated in the artist’s seminal Whitney retrospective, Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight, from 2016-2017.


    •    Since her wide-spread institutional recognition, Herrera has had a number of public installations, including a major outdoor exhibition at New York’s City Hall Park organized by the Public Art Fund in 2019. Her works reside in numerous major museum collections, such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Tate, London.


    •    To date, Phillips has achieved 4 out of the artist’s top 5 records.

     


    i Carmen Herrera, quoted in Alejandro Anreus, "Carmen Herrera in the Context of Modern Painting in Cuba," Carmen Herrera: The Black and White Paintings, exh. cat., El Museo del Barrio, New York, 1998, p. 18.
    ii Carmen Herrera, quoted in Helena De Bertodano, “Carmen Herrera: ‘Is It a Dream?,’” The Telegraph, December 20, 2010, online.
    iii Carmen Herrera, quoted in Estrellita B. Brodsky, “Ascetic Equation,” in Dorothy Feaver, ed., Carmen Herrera: Works on Paper, 2010-2012, exh. cat., Lisson Gallery, New York, 2013, p. 7.

    • Provenance

      Lisson Gallery, London
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      London, Lisson Gallery, Carmen Herrera, February 1 - March 3, 2012

    • Literature

      Helena de Bertodano, "Carmen Herrera: Is It A Dream?," The Telegraph, December 20, 2010, online (the artist with the present work in vertical orientation, artist's studio, illustrated)
      Barry Schwabsky, Vitamin P2: New Perspectives in Painting, London, 2011, no. 3, p. 131 (illustrated; erroneously titled and dated Morning, 2009)

    • 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.

      View More Works

Property from a Private American Collection

32

Amarillo y Negro

signed, titled and dated ""amarillo y negro." Carmen Herrera -2010-" on the overlap
acrylic on canvas
36 x 72 in. (91.4 x 182.9 cm)
Painted in 2010.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $630,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
New York Head of Department & Head of Auctions
+1 212 940 1278
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 November 2021