Carmen Herrera: I always remember something that people say is a cliché. “Less is more.” I do it all the time. I have something that I think is finished, and then take something out, and it’s better!

Narrator: When Herrera came back to New York in 1954, the feverish, emotive brushwork of Abstract Expressionism was still very much in favor. But in paintings like this one, Herrera—along with artists like Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella—began to introduce cool new sensibility, and a clear, formalist approach. Unlike her male peers, however, Herrera did not find recognition early on. Director Alison Klayman interviewed Carmen Herrera for her film on the artist, The 100 Years Show.

Carmen Herrera: Women had it very hard at the beginning. The fact that you were a woman was against you. There was a gallery here called Rose Fried. She’s dead now; that’s why I can tell this story. Somebody showed her my work; she liked it very much. So I said, well, maybe she’s going to give me a show! So I go to the gallery and she says this to me, “you know, you can paint circles around any man that I have in this gallery, but I am not going to give you a show, because you are woman.” A woman, to a woman! I walked out of that place as if someone has smacked me! I was so overwhelmed that a woman would have that mentality.

Carmen Herrera (b. 1915, _Rondo_, 1958. Acrylic on canvas, diameter: 39 in. (99.1 cm). Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection © Carmen Herrera

Carmen Herrera: I always remember something that people say is a cliché. “Less is more.” I do it all the time. I have something that I think is finished, and then take something out, and it’s better!

Narrator: When Herrera came back to New York in 1954, the feverish, emotive brushwork of Abstract Expressionism was still very much in favor. But in paintings like this one, Herrera—along with artists like Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella—began to introduce cool new sensibility, and a clear, formalist approach. Unlike her male peers, however, Herrera did not find recognition early on. Director Alison Klayman interviewed Carmen Herrera for her film on the artist, The 100 Years Show.

Carmen Herrera: Women had it very hard at the beginning. The fact that you were a woman was against you. There was a gallery here called Rose Fried. She’s dead now; that’s why I can tell this story. Somebody showed her my work; she liked it very much. So I said, well, maybe she’s going to give me a show! So I go to the gallery and she says this to me, “you know, you can paint circles around any man that I have in this gallery, but I am not going to give you a show, because you are woman.” A woman, to a woman! I walked out of that place as if someone has smacked me! I was so overwhelmed that a woman would have that mentality.