Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight opens February 4

Wed, Oct 12, 2016

"the show presents her as an artist of formidable discipline, consistency and clarity of purpose, and a key player in any history of postwar art.”—New York Times

Columbus, Ohio—February 4–April 16, 2017, the Wexner Center for the Arts will present Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight. It’s the first major solo exhibition in a US museum in nearly 20 years for a pioneering, too-little-recognized, Cuban-born, New York artist whose career spans over seven decades—and who is still producing work at the age of 101. The Wexner Center is the second, and only other, venue for the exhibition, following its debut in September at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Focusing on the years when Herrera honed her distilled approach, and developed the hard-edged geometric abstract style that would become her signature, Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight offers the first comprehensive look at the artist’s early career. The exhibition is comprised of 50 works.

As Dana Miller, the former Richard DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art, explains, “This unprecedented gathering of works demonstrates the extraordinary vision and the groundbreaking, experimental nature of Carmen Herrera’s art. Herrera was in many ways a woman ahead of her time. We are all just now starting to catch up with her.”

The exhibition begins with paintings made while Herrera was living in Paris after World War II (1948-1953), many of which have rarely been shown. The series Blanco y Verde—created from 1959 to 1971, and considered by the artist to be her most important workforms the heart of the exhibition. This section is followed by a selection of works from 1962 to 1978, revealing the artist’s continued play with figure-ground perception, including paintings from Herrera’s Days of the Week series (1975–1978). Wooden sculptural works, or “estructuras,” as Herrera calls them, illustrate the architectural element in her vision and the three-dimensional concepts behind many of her two-dimensional works.

Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight aims to introduce the artist’s striking work to a significantly larger audience, and begs reconsideration of Herrera’s omission from the postwar contemporary art canon.

Notes Wex director Sherri Geldin, “It’s our pleasure to have joined forces with the Whitney to bring greater national attention to Herrera’s prodigious oeuvre and her unflagging commitment to art-making over 70 years. Along with celebrated figures like Ellsworth Kelly, she pioneered a practice of incredible rigor and discipline, confining herself to precise geometric abstraction and a limited palette. But unlike Kelly and other peers, her achievement was largely overlooked for decades.”

Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight is organized by Dana Miller, the former Richard DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the Collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with essays by Miller; Serge Lemoine, emeritus professor at the Sorbonne and former chief curator and director of the Musée d’Orsay; Gerardo Mosquera, art historian, critic, and curator based in Havana and Madrid; and Edward J. Sullivan, Helen Gould Sheppard Professor in the History of Art, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Monica Espinel contributes an illustrated chronology.


Born in 1915, in Havana, Cuba, Carmen Herrera studied art, art history and architecture as a young woman in Havana and Paris. In 1939, following her marriage to an American, Jesse Loewenthal, Herrera relocated to New York City and attended classes at the Art Students League.

Returning to Paris from 1948 to 1953, she developed a connection to the international group of artists that formed the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles. Herrera exhibited with them regularly, displaying works with an increasing emphasis on precise forms and a limited color range. These paintings emerged at the same time that Ellsworth Kelly began producing his own abstractions and several years before Frank Stella began producing his black paintings.

Back in New York City in 1954, Herrera received little attention for her work. As a woman and an immigrant, she was marginalized in the art world for decades, yet she continued to produce and evolve as an artist. In the late 1990s, the art world started paying attention.

Herrera sold her first work in 2004 at the age of 89. She has exhibited at Miami Art Central, and New York’s El Museo del Barrio and The Alternative Museum. Her work has been presented in Europe by Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, England, and Museum Pfalzgalerie, Kaiserslautern, Germany. In the last decade, her works have been added to the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, Walker Art Center, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Tate Modern.


A series of gallery talks are being planned in conjunction with faculty from across The Ohio State University. Further details and additional events will be announced prior to the exhibition opening.

Free and low-cost programs at the Wexner Center are presented with support from Huntington Bank and Cardinal Health Foundation.

The Wexner Center receives general operating support from the Greater Columbus Arts Council, The Columbus Foundation, Nationwide Foundation, and the Ohio Arts Council. Generous support is also provided by the Corporate Annual Fund of the Wexner Center Foundation and Wexner Center members.