Federico Herrero at James Cohan Gallery

James Cohan Viewing Room

22 JUNE – 31 JULY 2020


Federico Herrero sees paintings everywhere, from street curbs and traffic signs to the painted trees and stones which proliferate in his native San José, Costa Rica. It is this examination of how color, shapes and signs define the urban environment that is vital to his practice as a painter.

Federico Herrero - MONSTERA Y JARRA
2020; Oil and acrylic on canvas; 80 x 100 cm. Courtesy of James Cohan Gallery.

Herrero is best known for working on an operatic scale, regularly exhibiting immersive, site-specific wall paintings, monumental canvases, and cast concrete sculptures. In striking contrast, these intimately scaled canvases and monotypes create a rich, distilled vocabulary that explores the sensory and pictorial properties of Herrero’s painting and image making.

“The bold flamboyance and delicate luminosity of Federico Herrero’s paintings are about both the process and the pleasure of seeing. His artistic language is grounded not in theory but rather in the immanence of the medium, in the basic act of painting contained in the application of coloured pigment over surfaces. The internal logic of Herrero’s work is governed by formal decisions that are never autonomous but that filter moments and glimpses of his immediate environment. In this way his paintings speak both of the world and of themselves.”

Federico Herrero - MONTAÑA, 
2020; Oil and acrylic on canvas; 37 x 45 cm - Courtesy of James Cohan Gallery.
Federico Herrero - UNTITLED
2020; Oil, acrylic and spray paint on canvas; 37 x 45 cm - Coutesy of James Cohan Gallery

“The photographs I take in the street, personally I relate to them as found paintings. They originate in the notion of the found object. You start to be very interested in certain things. Very specific. I think that creates the type of connection to how you navigate cities.”

“My palette is informed by a wide range of influences. One very important aspect is the urban landscape of cities and how pigment and color exist in a continuous flow. There’s a kind of notion of the canvas, treating it as a space almost like architecture. So I think it’s this same kind of idea I’m applying in the works on paper: the lack of pigment in the paper is the same as the lack of pigment in the canvas.”

Federico Herrero - UNTITLED
2018; Suite of 4 monotypes on paper; Each: 50.0 x 40.0 cm - Courtesy of James Cohan Gallery

“When I was in my formative years, which was the late 90s—there was a lot of discussion about this idea of the blurring of life and art. It was about having a more direct approach to art making—keeping the notion of working in the studio and not denying that space—but at the same time questioning where it ends and how your practice can continue once you’re out in the street or in daily life. This became for me a way to navigate my context.”

Federico Herrero - UNTITLED
2020; Monotype on paper; 50.0 x 40.0 cm - Courtesy of James Cohan Gallery

Federico Herrero (b. 1978, San José, Costa Rica) has presented solo exhibitions and public installations in São Paulo; San Francisco; Dusseldorf, Germany; Kanazawa, Japan; Tokyo; Mexico City; and London. Recent major institutional projects include Tempo aberto, Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói, São Paulo (2019); Open Envelope, Witte de With, Rotterdam, the Netherlands (2018); and Alphabet, a site-specific installation for the atrium of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2018). This summer, he will be the subject of an important mid-career retrospective at the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica in his native San Jose. Herrero received the Young Artist’s Prize at the 49th Venice Biennale (2001) and his work is in the permanent collection of numerous institutions including the Tate Modern, London, UK;  Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; Palm Springs Museum of Art, Palm Springs, CA; MUDAM, Luxembourg; MUSAC, Castilla y León, Spain;  Museo de de Arte Moderno y Contemporáneo de Santander y Cantabria, Santander, Spain; MUAC Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City, Mexico; Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan; 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan; and the Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY. Herrero is also the founder of Despacio, a contemporary art space in his native San José, which is an important force in the continued development of Central America’s artistic voice. He lives and works in San José, Costa Rica.