Carmen Herrera, “Red on Red (Rojo sobre Rojo)” (1959), oil and acrylic on canvas (all images courtesy of El Museo del Barrio)

Since at least the late 1940s, Carmen Herrera has been turning the art world on its head with her signature style of geometric abstraction. The centenarian, Cuban-born artist (who turns 105 on May 30) is best known for her hard-edge abstractions. As Herrera herself once stated, “I believe that I will always be in awe of the straight line, its beauty is what keeps me painting.” Through their exacting compositions, Herrera’s paintings push viewers to grapple with color and form in novel, delightful ways. Large-scale works like “Blanco y Verde” (1959), “Irlanda” (1965), and “Red on Red (Rojo sobre Rojo)” (1959) are crisp yet inviting for their striking, illusory possibilities and position the artist as one who remains squarely ahead of her time. (Her work predates both the Op Art and Minimalism movements, and sheds new light on ways in which artists were adopting elements of Concrete art into their own diverse practices.)

While long obscured by her male contemporaries such as Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella, Herrera’s work has rightly gained increased prominence over the last few decades, thanks in large part to major solo  exhibitions she’s received from institutions like El Museo del Barrio, the Whitney Museum, and the UK’s Ikon Gallery. From today’s vantage point, it feels a bit surreal to note that Herrera only sold her first painting in 2004. Thankfully, institutions like MoMA, the Walker Art Center, the Hirshorn, and Tate Modern have since recognized the need to play catch-up, acquiring her stunning works for their own collections.

Installation view of Carmen Herrera: The Black and White Paintings, 1951-1989 at El Museo del Barrio, New York, in 1998

A long-time New Yorker who is still actively creating art, Herrera will be the focus of an upcoming conversation hosted by El Museo, the very same institution that mounted her early solo show in 1998, well before the wider art world began celebrating her work. (Her solo show at the now-defunct Alternative Museum in New York was her very first museum exhibition.)

“Herrera’s contribution to geometric art are unparalleled,” notes El Museo Curator Susanna V. Temkin, who will be moderating the talk, “Her legendary perseverance is a lesson to us all and El Museo de Barrio is proud to have hosted one of her first solo exhibitions. We look forward to celebrating her monumental contributions on the eve of her milestone birthday.”

For “¡Felicidades Carmen!: A Celebration of Carmen Herrera” Temkin will be joined by Tony Bechara, an artist and long-time friend of Herrera’s; Carolina Ponce de Leon, an independent curator who organized Carmen Herrera: The Black and White Paintings, 1951-1989 at El Museo in 1998; and Monica Espinel, an independent curator and author of the chronology for Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight at the Whitney Museum (2016–2017).

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about one of the most significant artists of our time, and say it with me now, ¡felicidades (happy birthday) Carmen Herrera!

When: May 27, 5–6pm EDT
Where: online, via Zoom

Visit El Museo’s event page for more details.

The Latest

Avatar photo

Dessane Lopez Cassell

Dessane Lopez Cassell is a New York based editor, writer, and film curator, as well as the former reviews editor at Hyperallergic. You can follow her work here.