The documentary explores her long-arching painting practice and her much deserved, though much too late, rise to recognition. Herrera is a geometric, hard edge painter born in Havana, Cuba. While living much of her life in New York, she lived in Paris after World War II, where she began to explore abstraction and Russian Suprematism. She began developing her work at the same time as Josef Albers, Ellsworth Kelly, and Frank Stella, as well as several other canonized artists she could "paint circles around" while she remained unseen. Upon her return to the states, her painting predated the trends that would soon arrive from her male peers, including two colour paintings, optical art, and turning canvases into objects.
While she believes her anonymity may have given her the freedom to develop her voice, five decades or more is a long time to wait for validation and recognition. This fact, that Herrera steadily painted every day without sale, award, or accolade, is the part of her story that is so inspiring. Her paintings are truly about the creation of the work, whether that creation is visible or not.
Today, Carmen Herrera has finally been acknowledged as a missing piece in the history of painting, with a solo exhibition at The Whitney in 2015-16. The 100 Years Show is a bittersweet reflection on her dedication to her practice that is a must-watch, as tribute to her career's unjust omission. Watch it on Netflix.