Artist Features

An Artist a Week: Carmen Herrera

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Week 53: Carmen Herrera
Untitled (1948)

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Abstract minimalist artist Carmen Herrera has been creating art a long time. She was born in Cuba, trained there and in France before moving to New York City, where she has lived producing art since 1954. Earlier this year at 101 years old she finally got a solo exhibit in NYC.

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But I’m not spotlighting Herrera just because of her age or breadth of years creating art. I’ve talked before about how abstract art is one of the hardest things for me to accurately describe for this blog. When something brings about emotion through simplicity, how do I write several paragraphs about it? You can only talk so much about simplicity.

That’s okay, however, because Herrera herself says art can’t be talked about:

“If I could put those things in words, I wouldn’t do the painting. I would tell you…Usually artists are not the best people to talk about art. I think it’s a great mistake. You cannot talk about art—you have to art about art.”

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Herrera’s earlier works, during and right after World War II, were more complex (although still minimalist); she sought to parse down even further as she continued to create art, until we reach the crisp, bold lines and dramatic colors that she works with today.

Through all of her works, however, Herrera commands her canvas. There is a distinct boldness to her abstract art that is what catches my eye. Profiles of Herrera speak of her ability to blend different cultures of abstractionism due to her travels and training in different areas, but I suppose I’ll leave that to those more qualified to talk about it.

Me? I just love how striking it all is, and I admire how long she’s been working. I love how she understands that sometimes things can’t be said, except very very simply. (Considering she didn’t sell her first painting until she was 89, she also is a lesson in patience, and in making things for yourself and not others.)

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