May 14, 2004
The Art of Carmen Herrera, Fanny Sanín and Mira Schendel
By HOLLAND COTTER - This crisp, handsome show picks up a thread of geometric abstraction in 20th-century Latin American art, and follows it in the work of three women who have made significant contributions to the history of that art.
The senior artist, who is also the least well known, is Carmen Herrera, who was born in Cuba in 1915 and has lived in New York City since 1954. Her declarative, witty, hard-edge style has points of contact with Mondrian, Ellsworth Kelly and Op Art but is most immediately connected to the vanguard Neo-concrete work of artists like Lygia Clark and Helio Oiticica who flourished in Brazil after World War II.
Where Ms. Herrera's paintings present bold shaped forms set against white grounds, those of the Colombian-born artist Fanny Sanin are made up of smoothly intersecting and overlapping planes of warm colors -- red, yellow, terra cotta -- that bring to mind both monumental architecture and textile designs.
The paintings of Mira Schendel (1919-1988), who was born in Switzerland and lived in Brazil, actually look like woven fabrics. In them the geometry is off-kilter, its edges even and soft. The odd window-like shapes that result, punctuated with little squares of gold, feel as vulnerable as private letters. They make a striking complement and foil to the personable but precision-tooled work of Ms. Herrera and Ms. Sanin, and offer yet another reason, in this case a very subtle one, to consider geometric abstraction one of the great experimental inventions of modern art.