Monday, December 21, 2009

Want to Become a Successful Artist? A Case Study in Best Practices

If Carmen Herrera didn't exist on her own in the world, someone who teaches the fundamentals of how to think about your art career would have made her up. Point by point, this 94-year-old painter is a living confirmation of the validity of the most popular adages and seemingly hackneyed encouragements...seemingly, that is, until you hear Carmen's story.

The New York Times' Deborah Sontag explains:
After six decades of very private painting, Ms. Herrera sold her first artwork five years ago, at 89. Now, at a small ceremony in her honor, she was basking in the realization that her career had finally, undeniably, taken off. As cameras flashed, she extended long, Giacomettiesque fingers to accept an art foundation’s lifetime achievement award from the director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Her good friend, the painter Tony Bechara, raised a glass. “We have a saying in Puerto Rico,” he said. “The bus — la guagua — always comes for those who wait.”

And the Cuban-born Ms. Herrera, laughing gustily, responded, “Well, Tony, I’ve been at the bus stop for 94 years!”
She may have waited quite some time to sell her work, but it went into the level of collections any artist would be thrilled to enter (Fontanals-Cisneros, Brodsky, Gund). This is no charity case human interest...Herrera is being described as "a pioneer," "a quiet warrior of her art," and someone who played "a pivotal role” in “the development of geometric abstraction in the Americas” by some impressive historians who should know.

Moreover, exemplifying a nearly heroic adherence to the best career advice for artists, Herrera refused to change her explorations to meet the latest fashions, she refuses to discuss her work in terms of anything other than how she approaches it (sometimes a triangle is just a triangle), and she never lost sight of the fact that the essence of success and recognition is and forever will be working hard:
Recognition for Ms. Herrera came a few years after her husband’s death, at 98, in 2000. “Everybody says Jesse must have orchestrated this from above,” Ms. Herrera said, shaking her head. “Yeah, right, Jesse on a cloud.” She added: “I worked really hard. Maybe it was me.”
And it's not just critical acclaim and the satisfaction of having big-name collectors and art historians recognize her contributions that Herrera earned through her patience and faith in her work. It has paid off with what Warhol termed the sincerest form of admiration: money.
Ms. Herrera’s late-in-life success has stunned her in many ways. Her larger works now sell for $30,000, and one painting commanded $44,000 — sums unimaginable when she was, say, in her 80s. “I have more money now than I ever had in my life,” she said.
The article is a delight from beginning to end, but to summarize the career advice points that Herrera' story illustrates:
  1. Keep at what you're passionate about. Don't chase after trends or different media with the hopes of igniting your career...you'll never catch up to those doing something fashionable now and you probably won't be as good at something you're faking.
  2. Discuss your work on the terms in which you think about it. If people in the art world want to bring other things to it (if they see sex where there is none or politics where you didn't intend that) let them carry on...but don't feel pressured to agree. Let your work speak for itself.
  3. Your best "in" will always, always be your friends in the art world...so network! It was Herrera's good friend (another painter) Tony Bechara, who recommended her for a women's geometric abstraction exhibition that launched her success.
  4. Nothing...I repeat nothing...replaces hard work if your goal for your art is true recognition and lasting importance. If they bottled what it took, everyone would be a historically important artist.

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37 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cried when I read this story. Living proof of the importance of hard work, patience, and believing in your work no matter what....
And as George Harrison so aptly put it..."beware of maya."

12/21/2009 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

It's the story of the weekend, everyone is passing it around, love it. Nothing can replace the depth, wisdom and tenacity of age. The forthcoming Biennial has a 74 yr old, how about a 94 too.

12/21/2009 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

I loved this story. Six people (all women over 50) e-mailed it to me yesterday, but by then I'd already read it. It's a feel-good story for sure. And, Ed, you're right: Nothing replaces hard work.

But Herrera is one of very few artists, particularly women artists,(Alice Neel and Louise Bourgeois come to mind) who achieve success late in life. In the larger picture, most artists are dead before they reach 94.

To continue Bechara's metaphor, how do do we get the bus to make more frequent stops in a greater number of neighborhoods? How can the art world expand to enfold seasoned artists? How can curators expand their thinking to support them? How can dealers and collectors broaden their programs to enfold them? Can't you see the typical collector, after asking, "How old is the artist?" deciding she was outside their range.

So, yes, it's a feel-good story for the holiday season, but the reality is as rare as reindeer on the roof.

12/21/2009 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger jami said...

I jumped for joy when I read this article yesterday!

I was also encouraged by Marilyn Minter in her conversation with Richard Flood at Basel Miami this year, when she talked about being marginalized as a woman artist for so many years and how only recently as she has reached her sixties is achieving “success”.

She credited a supportive group of artists and friends that kept her going for all those years. However she still contends that “Gender matters” and I might add so does age.

But in this holiday season there are glimmers of hope.

12/21/2009 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

I love the "feel good" aspect of this article, just in time for Christmas. To Ed's four career advice points, I might add, Work within your own limitations. Comparing Ms. Herrera’s paintings against some of her contemporary's I think her strength was as much in what she didn't try to do as what she did.

These two paintings really struck me with their terse radicalness, "Red Star" (1949) and "Blanco y Verde" (1966) "Red Star" is a radical painting even amongst the other hard edge practitioners like Theo van Doesburg, Ilya Bolotowsky, Burgoyne Diller, Leon Polk Smith, Max Bill, John McLaughlin, Lorser Feitelson, Karl Benjamin...

Turning over the canvases, he saw that they predated by a decade paintings in a similar style by Ms. Clark. “Wow, wow, wow,” he recalled saying. “We got a pioneer here.” See this exhibition at Spanierman Modern for a general idea of what was happening then.

This line out of the NYT article also stands out, Ms. Herrera said that she also accepted, “as a handicap,” the barriers she faced as a Hispanic female artist Hopefully we are past this now.

12/21/2009 11:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Randall Anderson said...

In an interview with Richard Serra in Coagula, Mat Gleason's LA based Low Down on High Art, Serra is asked to give advice to younger artists. He said, "Work from your work." This becomes an invaluable piece of insight as an artist matures, they find that they do indeed have work to work from. Ed's points are well taken. I used to do a lot of new media projects, which certainly had a fashionable gloss to them, but now I find myself returning to more traditional media. It's much more difficult to do, can still be contemporary, and the lack of cool is great. The yearsworking with new media have only served to make my understanding of my studio practice stronger. I don't think I've ever enjoyed the studio as much as I do now. I'll be buying a beret soon, growing a little mustache, and getting an easel!

12/21/2009 01:26:00 PM  
Anonymous The Grinch said...

yes wonderful story for the holidays.

but best practices? career advice? r u serious? most PEOPLE are d-e-a-d fifteen years before this. for artists in this completely unsung situation the work is distributed to any friends or family who might want any (if anyone does) - most is chucked, destroyed, lost. it happens all the time; please review the resumes of artists listed on your website and get back to us with the career advice!

not attacking, just an 'oh puhleeze'.

12/21/2009 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

This makes me sick. Ignore an artist until she's got one foot in the grave (more like both legs up to her waist) then swarm over her like a flock of gluttonous vultures to pick the bones clean. This story could be repeated in a thousand variations without the "happy ending".

Kudos to Ms. Herrera, nuggies to the "art world".

12/21/2009 02:25:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I don't know James...your take on it asserts that the art world should have known all along how important the artist is...sometimes it simply doesn't work out that way.

12/21/2009 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

It is important to feel good, and feel good about working alone, for the pure joy of working. Nothing is more crippling than applying paint to the canvas, or pneumatic chisel to granite, or arc welder and electrode to steel, than to, at the same time, think about your audience. Will this dime weld hold the drive train? Or do I need two? Is my sculpture safe? do I need a muffler?

Is my painting comprehensible to others? Does it make me look cool? Sexy? Smart? What if I die alone, unheralded? Unsold? Should I drive drunk?

I too am on the feel good bus, short though it may be. And so it is with a heavy heart that I must contradict your assertions of joy at this supposed model of modesty and propriety. At the same time I consider it a gift that the mild reservations expressed by Joanne and George have left me room for gross explication.

My studies of the era of modernism show that though many artists were in it for the pure intellectual high, the sanctity of their art, the majority started careers in art for the glory of being an artist (at least within their class), and were encouraged by the thought of recognition and money. Is one more pure?

I think articles like this are dishonest (if beneficial for morale). Right in time for X-mass indeed.

1) Understand your motivations. Have a curator friend or magazines to keep track of trends or different media so you can take advantage if it is convenient...It is often easy to replicate what those doing something fashionable are doing now if you can hire someone (CNC routing, chrome plating, casting, flat panel display, sound). Or simply buy art to appropriate or riff off - fake it until you make it.

2) Let critics say what they want but make sure they say something - you can contradict them later at your famous artist talk. Make your work ambiguous and laugh all the way to the bank.

3) Dont be mean to anyone on the way up, you might see them on the way down.

4) The squaeky wheel gets the grease.

5) The early bird gets the worm.

6) Dead men tell no tales.

12/21/2009 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

I arrived back in New York City in the early 1950's, made the scene at the Cedar Bar and at the Artists' Club. In those years my friends were Mike Goldberg, Joan Mitchell, Larry Rivers, Bob Rauschenberg, etc., etc., etc., the whole second generation of abstract expressionist thing. I wrote an article for Artforum about this, or at least a very short piece about my memory of the 1950's. The talk was very pure, but everyone wanted to make it. It wasn't even a question of doubting in those days a dealer, curator, critic, collector situation in the 1950's, you know. The abstract expressionist rhetoric was extraordinarily idealistic and had a kind of meta-Marxist flavor that Harold Rosenberg gave it, and a kind of crypto-Marxist flavor that Clem Greenberg gave it. But essentially everyone was out to make it. And it was very, very hard to be deeply, deeply critical about the social world around one in the fifties. It was the Eisenhower years, you know, so you voted for Stevenson. And then what did the artists do at the beginning of the civil rights period? We got together and had a big auction. We made about fifteen grand, and we gave it to C.O.R.E., and they sent the first bus down. There were no artists on that bus, that's for sure. here

12/21/2009 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger Brent said...

Good life advice - in general - not just about art.

The most valuable thing you own is your character and integrity.

The danger of "selling out" is that you lose your integrity, and don't actually get anything for it.

And your circle of friends and colleagues (I HATE the term "network") is your best safety net!

(But don't forget you have to put food on the table, too!)

12/21/2009 04:23:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Ed, it's unfortunate that it took a "human interest" story to get people to look at the work. If it's good it should stand on its own with out the "Hispanic" "female" "Latin American" "old person" labels. Now it can't be seen for what it truly is, good paintin'.
There are none so blind as those who will not see.

12/21/2009 04:43:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Um, "selling out" might be underrated, it's a career path :-)

FWIW, I have a hunch that this type of 'rise from obscurity' may be a thing of the past. Modern information technology (electronic networking), a fundamentally more pluralistic art world and increasing gender and racial equality will bring such artists into visibility. The real issues remain, how good is the work? and how is it situated in history?

In Ms. Herrera’s case I looked online at a lot of 'hard edge' painters I knew about and it is evident that Ms. Herrera had an unique vision. Her paintings have a severe rigor not found in the paintings of her contemporaries, and this sets her apart and gives her an unique identity as an artist.

12/21/2009 05:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

With all my heart, and if God can hear me, I'd rather be the most mediocre and forgotten artist ever yet live up healthy to past 89 years old and up.


I need time.


Merry Holidays,

Cedric

12/21/2009 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger Mery Lynn said...

When I moved from Brooklyn in 2002, I had a thirteen year stack of ArtForums. As I threw them into the dumpster, I marveled at how few of the cover names I remembered.

We won't know for fifty years which of us will be remembered. I'm banking on the eccentrics. Those who follow the fashions are mostly merely trendy and disposable.

12/21/2009 08:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Gam said...

for those not NYTimes members you can see a slide show/synopsis of the NYT artist/story here:

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/12/19/arts/20091220HERRERA_index.html

...seems to be a side door for us undesirables ;)


"... it's not where you are, but that you are ..."

12/22/2009 06:05:00 AM  
Anonymous oldie but dullie said...

I laughed when I read this story. It's like somnething out of Vonnegut.

And the paintings look like 3rd rate graphic design

12/22/2009 08:17:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Ugh...it never fails to amaze me how utterly charmless folks (always anonymous, always) in the arts blogosphere can be. Really, 3rd rate graphic design? Did you bother to check your knee-jerk cynicism at the door long enough to check out the years of those paintings? Or are you simply too threatened by the idea of someone who's not you getting attention to consider that curious (let alone generous) a response to the story?

12/22/2009 08:29:00 AM  
Blogger Brent said...

George -

That is an interesting point - about that a rising from obscurity won't work the same way, and at the end it will be about how good the work is, and the context in history.

I think you are spot on, though my own twist on this is that it will be easy to get lost anyway:

I'll contend that 99% (your percentage may vary, but I am cynical!) of everything is on the net/web amounts to "noise" and the higher the noise, the subtle, the small, the contemplative and the quiet will easily get drowned out.

So, I am in violent agreement with you, but I still think that in a decade or two we'll see some of the quiet, the subtle be discovered that were languishing in obscurity due to the "flash" and "pop" required by this communication medium at this stage. But for sure, the game has changed!

(In short - it aids communication, is a net positive, but it is terrible for communicating quiet, subtle and things requiring contemplation)

12/22/2009 08:30:00 AM  
Blogger tony said...

It is great to see that Herrera is receiving the attention she merits but I wonder if part of the reason for disregard, until this moment, does not lie in part with the general disdain/ignorance that the American art establishment has had for Art Concret/Hard-Edge/Post-Painterly Abstraction over the decades.

The Abstract Expressionists & their apologists ripped into it; Judd had no qualms about mocking it and subsequent gallerists, curators & art historians were so preoccupied with 'new' fads & fashions that anything that seemed rooted in a history had a no role to play.

There are certain forms of painting which move more quietly than others but because they may lack easily attached epithets of bravado that does not mean they lack profundity or worth.

In view of the present abundance of art forms, & parallel penury of content, now may be the moment to look again at a form of painting which, though modest of means, may offer much in terms of redressing our view of society; the place of the individual & the role of painting within it.

12/22/2009 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

"Oldie but dullie" implies that what we have in the discovery of Herrera is just another art world joke. Akin to Malkovich's triangle-painting professor in Art School Confidential.

What we actually have is a case where the artist's intention matters. No one works in obscurity for decades, doing and refining the same sort of thing, unless they're serious about their art.

Herrera has - at the very least - earned the right to be considered in a serious way.

12/22/2009 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Twenty years ago, in art school, we were told that no one really looks at artists until they were out of school, had worked in their studios for several years, and had "payed their dues". There was an understanding that artists needed time to create away from the influences of their professors and colleagues to see what would happen on their own. We were told that most of us, left to our own devices, would give up on making art. Because there were no scouts in our MFA studios, no gallery solo shows before we graduated, there was a process of natural selection that was, at least partially, based on endurance.

How and when did this change? Has anyone written anything about this transition (I was hiding out in my studio not paying too much attention when it happened).

I think the idea of the internet being a great leveling field is inaccurate. So many different kinds of work cannot be accurately read from a 72 dpi jpeg.

As Joanne said, many things have to change before a story like this is more than just an aberration. We all think the Van Gogh story is so sad, but so few people stick their necks out to be the one to validate those unvalidated artists: "We do not accept unsolicited submissions, you painter from Iowa."

12/22/2009 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Brent, The information age is still in its infancy and only truly functional in the artworld for about 10 years. The single most significant networking event in history is the advent of Facebook. Within the artworld FB became accepted (de rigueur) this past summer. It provides a different kind of transparency to the social aspects of the artworld. Even with new technologies, I still think face to face connections are a requirement but social networking makes this easier than it was before.

I also agree that noise is a problem, generally so with the internet, but as the internet evolves certain sites will become magnets and act both as a filter and as a clearing house of information. Still the world population keeps growing so there is now probably ten degrees of separation.

12/22/2009 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

@ Tony, It is great to see that Herrera is receiving the attention she merits but I wonder if part of the reason for disregard, until this moment, does not lie in part with the general disdain/ignorance that the American art establishment has had for Art Concret/Hard-Edge/Post-Painterly Abstraction over the decades

Don't downplay the racism-sexism issues, both of these issues were very prevalent in the period up to 1965 or so, and unfortunately are still factors today.

I also am skeptical about a prejudice against C/HE/PPA painting as a cause since the other artists I mentioned managed to exhibit sucessfully. AE was historical by the early 1960's, and the Minimalists had their day alongside the POP artists for the rest of the decade. There was a shift towards the conceptual led by the 'October' crowd - [see the recent Saltz FB thread on 'painting is not dead'] but their anti painting bias was equally applied across the board. FWIW, October is wasting away into irrelevance as we speak.

As far as C/HE/PPA painting goes it's a matter of finding the niche audience.

12/22/2009 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Brent said...

George -

Great point - it is all brand new, and to declare "a final form" regarding anything about the art world is very premature. Though the Web and internet has been mainstream for about 15 years only - so only a few things have stabilized even outside of it, I'll wager.

Once the curating-of-information function rises, we'll likely see a similar problem to the present day - artists laboring in (relative) obscurity, unrecognized.

Perhaps this is the golden age?

12/22/2009 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

@Kate How and when did this change? Ans: 2001.
For a number of reasons there was an influx of capital into the art market after the Internet Boom. By 2004-05 it was completely out of hand (look back on some of Ed's old posts) and as we all now know, the art market crashed in 2008. The feeding frenzy is over and we are back to square one. From what I've seen here in NYC emerging artists are again selling but everything is occurring at a more modest pace.

I beg to differ about the internet and 72 dpi jpegs, they are just as good as slides. I also feel that the internet allows artists to remain closer to "what's going on" than was ever possible before. Most young artists don't have much of a clue about how the art world works and I feel that Ed's blog is a wonderful resource for getting closer to the truth. Sites like Facebook make it possible to initiate some contacts online, in a gradual more relaxed way.

I am sympathetic to those who live and work outside of a major art center, but it is a choice people make just like moving to the center is a choice. Wherever you are, your best results will be where you can make face to face contact with people. Start in your hometown and work out from there.

12/22/2009 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

George,
I agree with you about the internet and networking, it is incredible how much can be accomplished via contacts made online, especially mixed up with real life networking.

You stated earlier that "I have a hunch that this type of 'rise from obscurity' may be a thing of the past. Modern information technology (electronic networking), a fundamentally more pluralistic art world and increasing gender and racial equality will bring such artists into visibility. The real issues remain, how good is the work?"

I agree that jpegs are as good as (better than) slides, but my point was that, often, you can only see "how good the work is" when you are actually in its presence, so the internet can only do so much.

There are also a myriad of reasons why artists make the choice to be someplace other than NYC. (When I got out of grad school, I needed health insurance, and was only qualified to teach, so I moved to the location of the university teaching job, but still get to NY 4-5x a year.)

My point is, it is not so difficult to understand how important artists can be overlooked. I know several artists who are doing brilliant work who lack the social skills to network, or essentially have no desire to jump through the appropriate hoops... some could care less about the internet, esp. the older ones. Many have decided that, in order to keep their sanity, and continue making work, they have decided to forget about "breaking in".

What mechanisms are in place to find these kinds of artists? Juried shows are considered amateur, when a "open call" vehicle such as the populist ArtPrize was introduced, it was scoffed at by the art world, and, as it turns out, for good reason.

It surprises me that people are surprised by this story.

12/22/2009 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger Brent said...

While I agree that business and social networking has been a boon to artist, gallerist and collectors - and raises awareness, I am not sure how well it aids actual collecting?

Any thoughts?

(I have used it - so I am not saying it doesn't happen, but what do others say?)

12/22/2009 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Im glad george brought up slides. WHen people as a whole complain about jpgs, they never mention the juries that look at slides three or four at a time. How can you tell?

And yet the more art I see, in person or in reproduction, the more I realize that you can tell, with a high degree of accuracy, from a picture, if something will be good in person.

Sure, Isamu Naguchi is pretty riveting in situ, but if you see one, you can extrapolate and the coffee table book or table top H-O scale model will suffice (as with an architectural model, done in exotic woods. What use are abstracted models to the buyer? Add surely there must be more to a medium than mere transliteration?

But Being of your time, nothing - fashionable, unfashionable or idiosyncratic will put you above criticism, though the frame of the critic might seem invalid to you who are the anachronistic, the idiosyncratic, the fashionista, or the true believer.

WIth that in mind, Ms. Herrera's paintings do seem obviously dated - and while I can imagine the excitement hard edged abstraction may hold for many, including some of my teachers, students eager to master something easy (the straight line, the solid color) there is a sense of the generic, the machine made, that has lost its fascination in this age of facile mechanical reproduction. Like space age freeze dried food, taste does matter.

And may I preemtively state that I am aware that work has an aura, but that that glamour is a fickle and fleeting illusion, a psychological high no more tangible than feeling god or gold from a fairy mound.

Al Held's gold has turned to leaves, sticks and shit.

I don't feel god. I dont feel its presence, not in the majestic mountains, nor in the lonely prairie. I do feel, but no painting extant has done more for me than reality. How real esthetic reality is! Maybe that is a problem, but on the other hand, how many people can lay claim to such objectivity, such simple sincere unflinching kleig lighted illumination?

When I see a green triangle in a circle on a black ground, I am forced back out to regard reality - a woman using a ruler and angle to draw lines and color them in. How limiting! How rigourous? Really? Pair your rigour up with that of a mathematician. Communards may man their barricades, but real artists dont flinch at anihilating their tropes with flaming chaos.

The idea that you must read into something is what hard edged abstraction toys with. For the esthete this is a parlour trick, by now as facile as outlining everything in black cloisonee. It informs what you do, but after school (where self reflexivity is taught by rote learning method) the world opens up, and you are left in the undiscovered country where subject and object are taken for granted, in the fleeting glow of self reflexive glory.

12/22/2009 03:48:00 PM  
Anonymous noble savage said...

I hope she doesn't let it go to her head.

12/22/2009 04:20:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

"... a woman using a ruler and angle to draw lines and color them in."

It's not the amount of visible stuff, nor the sheer physical work an artist did that impresses me, but rather the taste the artist exercised, and the choices the artist made in the work.

Why applaud the Zen artist for a simple brush stroke and deny the same to Herrera?

12/22/2009 04:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey let's stop talking about this artist like she is henry darger.

her work has been written up in the nytimes every decade since the fifties, more than ten times, and i am not including exhibition listings. for comparison, loren munk (commenter above as james kalm) has been mentioned in the nytimes ONCE, in 1985.

herrera has also had more than ten solo shows in nyc since the fifties.

yes this is a good story. no she did not get as famous as she could have.

but, read the article and listen to how she deals with studio visitors and questions about her work, then compare that to some of the posts edward has made on "how to" handle studio visits. based on that do you think edward or other gallerists would have been eager to work with her?

not sure what my point is. i do like the art, the artist, the story (heaped as it is with spin and myth)... but am not sitting here thinking 'poor carmen'. she had a nice small career, played it her way without much apparent compromise, and is fortunate enough to live long enough to see the interest in her work spike.

12/22/2009 05:52:00 PM  
Blogger Nathalie Chikhi said...

Love her work, her story and her success. That's amazing!

12/22/2009 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

@Kate I know several artists who are doing brilliant work who lack the social skills to network, or essentially have no desire to jump through the appropriate hoops... some could care less about the internet...

The above is all too true. However, if you look at art history over the last century or so, anti-social artists for the most part died in obscurity. So the question is, how much were they willing to fight for their art? Or, were they satisfied with their own self indulgent pursuit? Let's not judge here, but each path will produce different results.

Carmen Herrera is a particular case, the racist-sexist bias was very very strong in the 50's and she appears to have been less aggressive about exhibiting her paintings.

Alice Neel is a great painter who had to contend with the sexism issues yet she pursued an active exhibition career. She was less 'invisible' but really is only being appreciated now.

Finally, Albert York who was another great painter also was a recluse who dropped out of the public eye early on, yet was an underground legend among painters who had ever come into contact with his paintings. Never the less he had a good uptown gallery and an elite cadre of collectors.

All three cases are different and the truth of it is that while anything can happen those who are "waiting to be discovered" may have a very long wait. Unfortunately, I am probably the last person to suggest an answer to the question.

Finally, for those interested in the other "hard edge abstractionist" painters I just saw this exhibition this afternoon Exploring Black and White: The 1930S Through the 1960's at D Wigmore Fine Art on 5th Ave.

12/22/2009 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

I'll stand corrected regarding her exhibition history.
Carmen Herrera's bio (PDF)

I'll stand by my racism-sexism arguments.

12/22/2009 06:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does cynicism make you smarter, hipper, or safer? Thanks, Ed; this was a just a nice piece. Good for Ms. Herrera. Good for those of us who keep doing our work because we have to, not because we're waiting for fame and fortune or because we think it gives us bohemian martyr cred. Thanks for the interview link, Zip...interesting nugget on "socialist" corporate bailouts in there.

12/23/2009 03:44:00 PM  

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