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Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement

The Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement, first presented in 1988, celebrates the career of an artist who, among other distinctions, has demonstrated particular commitment to his or her work throughout a long career and has had an important impact nationally and internationally on the field.

2016 Winner

Carmen Herrera

Born in Havana, Cuba in 1915, Carmen Herrera took art classes while studying to be an architect. In the late 1930s, she abandoned that path and moved to New York, where she studied at the Art Students League. After living in Paris for a few years following World War II, Herrera and her husband moved back to New York, where she has lived ever since. Herrera recently celebrated her 100th birthday, and continues to create work in her Manhattan studio.

Although she did not sell her first painting until she was 89 years old, Carmen Herrera has been exhibited several times throughout her career, including four times at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1949–53), alongside artists such as Josef Albers, Jean Arp, Sonia Delauney, and many others. Her work also resonated with painters from the US school such as Barnett Newman, Leon Polk Smith and Ellsworth Kelly.

A pioneer in modernist abstraction, Herrera creates minimalist paintings in primary colors. Over the years her compositions have grown even more minimal, sometimes rendered in only one blade of color shooting across a white canvas. Using sharp, clean lines, Herrera creates unbridled movement and energy in vibrant planes of pigment. “Only my love of the straight line keeps me going,” Herrera has said.

Herrera’s work is in numerous public and private collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Tate Collection, UK; the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. The Whitney Museum of American Art is organizing a retrospective of her work scheduled for 2016. Alison Klayman, who directed the film Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, is currently making a documentary on Herrera’s life.

“Those of us with a passion for either geometric art or Latin American modernist painting now realize what a pivotal role” Ms. Herrera has played in “the development of geometric abstraction in the Americas,” said Edward J. Sullivan, a professor of art history at New York University.

Herrera has said, wryly, “If you wait for the bus, it will come. I waited 98 years for the bus to come.”

Jury: Susan Taylor, New Orleans Museum of Art, chair; Patricia Cronin, Brooklyn College, City University of New York; and Judith Kirshner, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Past Winners

One of CAA’s most illustrious prizes, the Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement has recognized the long, prominent, and influential careers of many contemporary artists, among them Joan Mitchell and Louise Bourgeois in the 1980s; Willem de Kooning, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, and John Baldessari in the 1990s; and Alison Knowles, Elizabeth Murray, and Chris Burden in the present decade.

Read a list of all winners of the Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement from 1988 to the present.

Award Nominations

CAA has begun accepting nominations for the 2017awards. Please review the guidelines to familiarize yourself with the nomination process and to download, complete, and submit the requested materials. Deadline: July 31, 2016, for the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award, the Alfred H. Barr Jr. Awards, and the Frank Jewett Mather Award; August 31, 2016, for all others.

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