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Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales

Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales

Estructuras Monumentales is the Houston debut of outdoor sculptures by New York-based artist Carmen Herrera (b. 1915 Havana, Cuba). She has created vibrant, abstract paintings for more than 70 years, but has only recently received her well-deserved art historical recognition. Herrera’s radiant compositions simplify dynamically juxtaposed forms to their purest elements of color and geometry, creating a distinctive and iconic clarity by emphasizing what she sees as “the beauty of the straight line.”

Herrera’s Estructuras series of sculptures are even less well known. Informed by her architectural training, Herrera began the series in the 1960s with a group of diagrammatic sketches. She envisioned large-scale monochromatic sculptures that would extend the experience of her luminous paintings into three dimensions. Whereas many male Modernists working in mid-century Europe and the United States achieved acclaim that enabled them to create large-scale monumental sculptures (such as Henry Moore’s Large Spindle Piece nearby), Herrera’s historic proposals remained unrealized for decades. Complementing the powerful structures at Buffalo Bayou Park is an exhibition of Herrera’s paintings, drawings, prints, and objects at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston titled Carmen Herrera: Structuring Surfaces.

Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales is curated by Public Art Fund Curator Daniel S. Palmer.

Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales was first presented by Public Art Fund in New York City at City Hall Park from July 11 – November 8, 2019. The Houston presentation of the exhibition is organized in collaboration with Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Public Art Fund.

Location

Buffalo Bayou Park

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Image Gallery

Works

Pavanne, 1967/2017
Herrera originally conceived this sculpture as a monument to her younger brother, Mariano, who was then dying of cancer. The three tightly fit, interlocking elements of this solemn work encourage quiet contemplation, while the title references the musical term for a slow processional dance with funereal overtones.

Angulo Blanco, 2017
At 105 years old, Herrera still creates art every day. This is the first Estructura that she has designed in more than three decades. Its white chevron composition conveys movement and rhythm with a bold dynamism reminiscent of many of her most iconic paintings.

Gemini (Green), 1971/2019
This sculpture most clearly expresses the evolution from Herrera’s paintings to her Estructuras. Her breakthrough Blanco y Verde (1966-67) series of paintings on canvas created long acute wedges of green paint among white expanses. This sculpture inverts that arrangement: two triangular slivers of negative space are framed by stacked green rectangular forms. This juxtaposition incorporates the sculpture’s surroundings into its dynamic composition.

Untitled Estructura (Red), 1962/2018
Herrera’s Estructuras can be appreciated for their formal poetry, yet they can also be seen in the context of her life. In October of 1962, the confrontation between the United States and Cuba escalated to the Cuban Missile Crisis, during which Herrera and her husband Jesse Lowenthal were deeply involved in helping friends, family, and refugees escape the conflict. The overhanging, cantilevered arrangement of this Estructura might abstractly allude to the tensions between Herrera’s adopted and native countries at the moment she conceived this work.

Reference Images

En Español: Sobre la Exposición

Estructuras Monumentales es el estreno de las esculturas al aire libre de Carmen Herrera, artista que vive en Nueva York, y que nació en La Habana, Cuba, en 1915. Ha creado vibrantes pinturas abstractas durante más de 70 años, pero no fue hasta hace muy poco que recibió un bien merecido reconocimiento histórico en el arte. Las radiantes composiciones de Carmen Herrera simplifican formas yuxtapuestas de manera dinámica hasta sus elementos cromáticos y geométricos más puros, y crean una claridad peculiar y emblemática al destacar lo que ella considera “la belleza de la línea recta”.

La serie de esculturas de Carmen Herrera Estructuras es aún menos conocida. Gracias a sus conocimientos de arquitectura, Carmen Herrera comenzó la serie con un grupo de bocetos esquemáticos en la década de los años sesenta. Concibió esculturas monocromáticas de gran escala que ampliaran en tres dimensiones la experiencia de sus luminosas pinturas. Si bien muchos artistas masculinos del modernismo que trabajaban en Europa y en los Estados Unidos a mediados del siglo XX lograron el reconocimiento que les permitió crear esculturas monumentales de gran escala (como la cercana Large Spindle Piece [Gran pieza en forma de huso], de Henry Moore), las propuestas históricas de Carmen Herrera quedaron sin plasmarse durante décadas. Para complementar las impactantes estructuras de Buffalo Bayou Park, hay una exposición de pinturas, dibujos, grabados y objetos de la artista en el Museo de Bellas Artes de Houston, titulada Carmen Herrera: Structuring Surfaces (Carmen Herrera: superficies estructuradas).

-Daniel S. Palmer, Curador de Public Art Fund

Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales fue presentada por Public Art Fund por primera vez en el City Hall Park de la ciudad de Nueva York entre el 11 de julio y el 8 de noviembre de 2019. La presentación en Houston fue organizada en colaboración con Buffalo Bayou Partnership y Public Art Fund.

 

En Español: Obras

Pavana, 1967/2017
Carmen Herrera originalmente concibió esta escultura como un monumento en homenaje a su hermano menor, Mariano, que entonces estaba muriendo de cáncer. Los tres elementos entrelazados, herméticos de esta obra solemne invitan a una calma contemplación, mientras que el título hace referencia a un término musical, una lenta danza procesional de trasfondo fúnebre.

Ángulo Blanco, 2017
A los 105 años de edad, Carmen Herrera continúa creando arte todos los días. Esta es la primera Estructura que ha diseñado en más de tres décadas. La composición de color blanco, con forma de “V” invertida transmite movimiento y ritmo con el intenso dinamismo de muchas de sus emblemáticas pinturas.

Géminis (Verde), 1971/2019
Esta escultura expresa con la mayor claridad la evolución de las pinturas de Carmen Herrera a sus Estructuras. En Blanco y Verde (1966-67), su innovadora serie de pinturas sobre lienzo, crea profundas y agudas franjas de pintura verde entre las extensiones de color blanco. Esta escultura invierte ese orden: dos tajadas triangulares de espacio negativo quedan enmarcadas por las formas rectangulares apiladas de color verde. Esta yuxtaposición incorpora el espacio que rodea a la escultura en su composición dinámica.

Estructura sin título (Rojo), 1962-2018
Las Estructuras de Carmen Herrera pueden apreciarse por su poesía formal, pero también pueden entenderse en el contexto de su vida. En octubre de 1962, el enfrentamiento entre los Estados Unidos y Cuba se agravó con la crisis de los misiles en Cuba, durante la cual Carmen Herrera y su marido, Jesse Lowenthal, se dedicaron de lleno a ayudar a amigos, familiares y refugiados a escapar del conflicto. La configuración colgante y voladiza de esta Estructura tal vez aluda de manera abstracta a las tensiones entre el país adoptivo de Herrera y su país natal en el momento en que concibió esta obra.

New York Exhibition

Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales was originally presented by Public Art Fund in City Hall Park, Lower Manhattan, July 11 – November 9, 2019. The exhibition – her first major show of outdoor sculptures – marked a milestone in the artist’s long and celebrated career, bringing the full breadth of her work in three dimensions to the public for the first time.

The New York exhibition included five works: three newly-realized sculptures based on historic designs and two sculptures never before seen in the U.S. Angulo Rojo (2017), the first Estructura Herrera designed in more than three decades, presents a dynamic chevron composition. The red A-shaped sculpture conveys movement and rhythm and is reminiscent of the many diamond forms from her iconic paintings. It presents both the solidity of a sculptural object and the weightlessness of a celestial shape ascending towards the sky. Pavanne (1967/2017), the other existing work, was conceived originally as a drawing in 1967 as a memorial to Herrera’s brother who had cancer. Pavanne, which refers to the musical term for a slow dance, often as part of a funeral procession, features three interlocking elements in a deep blue that solidly extends nine feet into the air and nine feet across the lawn. The three newly-fabricated works – Estructura Verde, Rojo Tres, and Untitled Estructura – are all based on historic designs from the 1960s-early 1970s and are composed of two interlocking or embracing parts that demonstrate Herrera’s careful geometric balance, distilled palette, and bold use of color. The vivid red, blue, green, and yellow sculptures were sited throughout City Hall Park’s groves and pathways, offering a powerful yet reflective experience for the public that evoked both a sense of order and tranquility.

Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales in New York City

Presenting Sponsor: The Movado Group Foundation

Leadership support for Estructuras Monumentales is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Agnes Gund, The Diane & Bruce Halle Foundation, Tony Bechara, Fotene Demoulas & Tom Cote, the Fuhrman Family Foundation, the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, Jennifer & Matthew Harris, and Lisson Gallery. Additional support is provided by Trudy & Paul Cejas and Anonymous.

This exhibition is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Special thanks to the Office of the Mayor, Office of the Manhattan Borough President, and NYC Parks.

Public Art Fund is supported by the generosity of individuals, corporations, and private foundations including lead support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, along with major support from the Charina Endowment Fund, The Marc Haas Foundation, Hartfield Foundation, the Donald A. Pels Charitable Trust, The Silverweed Foundation, and the Joseph and Joan Cullman Foundation for the Arts.

Public Art Fund exhibitions and programs are also supported in part with public funds from government agencies, including the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.