One of Artist Carmen Herrera’s Final Bold, Minimalist Works Takes Center Stage in a Royal Ballet Production

The late artist's grace and poetry came alive at the Royal Opera House. Burberry's Daniel Lee channeled her work for the costuming.

Untitled, 2023. Photo: Alice Pennefather.

The late Cuban-American artist Carmen Herrera was fond of describing each painting as a fight, one she was in the habit of winning. It was an ethos befitting someone who despite crafting immaculate minimal abstractions for four decades only received art-world recognition in her late 80s. Among Herrera’s final salvos (she died in 2022 at the age of 106) was the ballet set she created for Untitled, 2023.

The ballet debuted at London’s Royal Opera House on June 9. Burberry’s creative director Daniel Lee designed the dancers’ costumes and took a cue from Herrera’s bold minimalism. He affixed dancers with irregular angles of green and white. The lines on their bodies  extend, bend, blur, and then disappear — a thing of unpredictable movement against the still of Herrera’s set (one enhanced by Lucy Carter’s delicate lighting design).

White gallery walls might profess to have immersive qualities, but Untitled, 2023 went one better, offering the stage as a vast Herrera canvas and dancers as geometric elements shifting endlessly across it. It is, in essence, a journey into Herrera’s mind, one that no matter the variation or form displayed a constant flair for precise lines.

Carmen Herrera, Blanco y Verde (1966–67) sold for $2.9 million at the Miss Porter's School "By Women for Tomorrow's Women" benefit auction at Sotheby's New York, a world record for the artist. Courtesy of Sotheby's New York.

Carmen Herrera, Blanco y Verde (1966–67) sold for $2.9 million at the Miss Porter’s School’s “By Women for Tomorrow’s Women” benefit auction at Sotheby’s New York, a world record for the artist. Courtesy of Sotheby’s New York.

The set seemed an extension of Herrera’s celebrated “Blanco y Verde” (1959 to 1971) series in which green triangles of varying dimensions rest in white space, an interplay the artist described as creating “a force field”. There were 14 works in the series, most of which are now housed in major U.S. museums, and here Herrera offers a 15th, an elongated triangle with an accompanying white sculpture stage left.

The moving dance was choreographed by Wayne McGregor. “It’s a work of innovation, motion, and piercing beauty,” he said. “Together we are honoring Carmen whilst forging our own evolutionary path.” You sense Herrera would agree.

See more images:

Carmen Herrera

Untitled, 2023. Photo: Alice Pennefather.

<i>Untitled, 2023</i>. Photo: Alice Pennefather.

Untitled, 2023. Photo: Alice Pennefather.

<i>Untitled, 2023</i>. Photo: Alice Pennefather.

Untitled, 2023. Photo: Alice Pennefather.

<i>Untitled, 2023</i>. Photo: Alice Pennefather.

Untitled, 2023. Photo: Alice Pennefather.

<i>Untitled, 2023</i>. Photo: Alice Pennefather.

Untitled, 2023. Photo: Alice Pennefather.

<i>Untitled, 2023</i>. Photo: Alice Pennefather.

Untitled, 2023. Photo: Alice Pennefather.


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