A film by Alison Klayman
2015, 30 minutes
No. 046

Carmen Herrera sketches by the window of her New York City apartment every morning. She is coming up on her 100th birthday and is bound to a wheelchair, but she still vibrates with the energy of a much younger woman. At midday most days she treats herself to a scotch. Then she returns to her work. Her canvases are radiant and disciplined, straight lines and shapes in just two colors.

She has been painting since her youth in Cuba, but it was only in the last few years that she found recognition. In the last decade, major institutions from MoMA to Tate Modern have acquired her paintings. London’s The Observer called Carmen the “discovery of the decade,” and her work is now acknowledged as a precursor to many modernist styles—minimalism, geometric and modernist abstraction, and concrete painting. Central to Carmen’s work is a drive for formal simplicity and a striking sense of color.

Although the market ignored her for decades, she was always supported by a steadfast love, her husband of 61 years Jesse Loewenthal. Jesse was an English teacher at Stuyvesant High School, and was described by author Frank McCourt, a colleague, as an old-world scholar in an "elegant, three piece suit, the gold watch chain looping across his waistcoat front." Carmen's only regret is that he didn’t live to see her success.

From architecture studies in Cuba to New York's Art Students League to Le des Réalités Nouvelles in Paris, Carmen's life has spanned continents and art movements, and demonstrates a persistent devotion to her work. She was a pioneer and a peer of many male artists who received great recognition in their time. Her story is just one example of the many great artists whose accomplishments were overlooked because of their gender, ethnicity or nationality. Directed by Alison Klayman, the filmmaker behind the acclaimed documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, The 100 Years Show demonstrates the power of artistic vision to sustain itself.

* Official Selection, DOC NYC
* Official Selection, Hot Docs Film Festival
* Official Selection, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
* Winner, Best Documentary Short, Ashland Independent Film Festival
* Winner, Best Documentary Short, Heartland Film Festival
* Winner, Best Documentary Short, Riverrun International Film Festival
* Winner, Best Documentary Short, Ozark Foothills Filmfest

"Brimming with joie de vivre, The 100 Years Show is a captivating portrait... And as Herrera says, 'Less is more' -- the film supplies a fully-rounded portrait of the artist and her work, yet is short enough to screen and discuss in a class period. Highly recommended for academic libraries supporting coursework in studio art, art history, and the social sciences, The 100 Years Show is also a great choice for public libraries. Herrera’s persistent devotion to her art, despite decades of obscurity, is truly inspiring." - Educational Media Reviews Online