Audio guide stop for Carmen Herrera, Escorial, 1974
Dana Miller: Escorial is a clear reference to a building, San Lorenzo de El Escorial in Spain. This is a building that particularly appealed to Herrera. She said that she felt at home there. It's famous for its very clear geometry, for its lack of ornamentation, for its very stark lines. And given Herrera's predilection for clean lines and clear geometries, it's not a surprise that she would gravitate towards this building.
The building was made in honor of Saint Lawrence, San Lorenzo, who was famously martyred by being, I guess the crude way to say was grilled, barbecued on a gridiron. The building, Escorial, is designed so that the floor plan resembles a gridiron.
And that is what Herrera is referencing here with this arrangement of black and white forms. And when Herrera talks about this work, it's often with a little bit of a smile, a wry sense of humor that she's created a very simple geometric, clean, spare painting but that it's a barbecue, as she says.
Narrator: This is the last painting on our tour. Herrera has continued to develop her pictorial language for more than forty years.
Carmen Herrera: When I was younger, nobody knew I was a painter. Now they’re beginning to know I’m a painter. I waited a long time. There is a saying. If you wait for the bus, the bus will come. I say, yeah. I wait almost a century for the bus to come (laughs). And it came! (laughs harder)
Dana Miller: Herrera's still working almost every day in her studio. She gets up, and she goes to her drawing table near the window, and gets out her pencils, and her rulers, and stack of tracing paper, and starts working through various compositional iterations. For her, she says it's the beauty of the straight line that keeps her going.
Narrator: Thank you for joining us today. Special thanks to Alison Klayman, whose documentary The 100 Years Show provided the interviews with Carmen Herrera.