A Havana-born artist who spent her postwar years in Paris exhibiting with Mondrian and developing her craft with Yves Klein before settling in New York in 1954, Herrera failed to achieve any of the critical or commercial success of her male counterpoints. She was a woman and she was Cuban and she was shy and so her significant contributions to the minimalist form were ignored. For five decades she kept painting privately, in her studio loft near Union Square, despite the indifference of the art world.
As has been widely publicized of late, Herrera made her first sale in 2004 at the age of 89. Her first solo exhibition at a major New York museum is currently underway at the Whitney. She’s 101 years old. I’m not usually one for inspirational messages, but for Ms. Herrera, I’ll make an exception.
What passion to wake up every day with the desire to create that which others refuse to acknowledge. What discipline to spend a lifetime in pursuit of the perfect line. What poetic satisfaction—and tragedy—in finding massive success and validation after 50 years of artistic solitude. We could all learn something from Carmen Herrera.
Albert Kriemler certainly did. His Akris Spring 2017 show is directly inspired by several of Ms. Herrera’s most important works. And I have this Akris show to thank for my all-too-tardy introduction to the work and world of Carmen Herrera. I spent the better part of the workday yesterday writing about white linen jackets constructed with shocks of green satin—a nod to Blanco y Verde (1959)—and silk tunics printed with glowing geometric shapes akin to those that energize Iberic (1949). Below, I’ve put together six diptychs that pair Akris looks with their Carmen Herrera-made counterparts.