In this series, E. Carmen Ramos, curator of Latino art, discusses the exhibition Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. This episode looks at the painting Blanco y Verde by Carmen Herrera. Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art presents the rich and varied contributions of Latino artists in the United States since the mid-twentieth century, when the concept of a collective Latino identity began to emerge. The exhibition is drawn entirely from the Smithsonian American Art Museum's pioneering collection of Latino art. It explores how Latino artists shaped the artistic movements of their day and recalibrated key themes in American art and culture.
E. CARMEN RAMOS: This is Carmen Herrera’s “Blanco y Verde” from 1960. Herrera moved the United States from Havana, Cuba in 1939 and formed part of a large generation of American artists who were interested in abstraction. Between 1948 and 1952, she lived in Paris and formed part of a large community of artists coming from all over the world who were interested in finding a new language to represent the modern experience. She developed a wide body of work, that was highly experimental and motivated by her interest in form, space and color. Many of her works, including “Blanca y Verde,” started out as sketches mapped out on paper mathematically in which she played with different forms and space.
This work comes from a large body of work composed of green triangles that pierce through white space. “Blanca y Verde” is a diptych. As you see, it’s divided in two canvases and what Herrera does, is she creates a series of what I like to call pressure points, where the points of the various triangles that we see throughout the canvas meet the edge or the center of a canvas to create a sense of instability and movement throughout the canvas as well as to suggest three-dimensional space. On the right-hand side for example, she places three triangles on the bottom side and going through the middle of the canvas. It appears as if this white edge has been butted and moved by their placement. On the other canvas, she paints a triangle at the bottom edge of the canvas that joins with this triangle to give the sense of the green form pushing the white form back into space.
Carmen Herrera has recently gained a significant amount of attention as a Latin American artist. By including her work in our collection we're able to show her rich links with American artists and especially with the development of minimalist and abstract art in the United States ever since the 1950s.
Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art presents the rich and varied contributions of Latino artists in the United States since the mid-twentieth century, when the concept of a collective Latino identity began to emerge.