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Contemporary Art Gallery

555 Nelson Street
Vancouver, Canada
Admission always free

Today's hours
12 pm - 6 pm
9 Sep 11until15 Jan 12

Federico Herrero


CAG Façade

 CAG’s facade windows are installed with colorful circular and organic shapes in vinyl. The first floor windows are covered in two hues of pale blue, on which the various-sized shapes scatter.

Federico Herrero, Vibrantes (detail), 2011. Photo: SITE Photography

The Contemporary Art Gallery presents a major new commission by Costa Rican artist Federico Herrero. Vibrantes will evolve over a period of time at the beginning of September revealing the performative aspect of Herrero’s practice while working in the public realm, such unconventional locations and surfaces typically providing a context for his large-scale abstract murals. While Herrero at times also produces more usual gallery exhibitions, his works are primarily site-specific and more commonly made outside as part of a cityscape. For example, in 2007 in Medellin, Colombia, Herrero painted the cement pillars raising the subway tracks over the city’s central park, covering the uniformly drab surface in bright flat planes of blue, which acted as the background for his characteristic layering of colourful geometric shapes.

Herrero often seeks out difficult sites — the horizontal expanse of an exposed rooftop, the cracks in concrete pathways, the exposed bottom of a swimming pool, or the brutalist structure of the Central Library in Portsmouth, UK. Most recently he painted the exteriors of four fishing huts on the Rhine, solid monochromatic planes juxtaposed with dense clusters of multi-coloured organic forms. While his colour palette makes the huts stand out in contrast to the landscape, it is his distinctive compositions that are transformative. The murals seem to physically alter the positions of the huts — the formal compositions seeming to dislodge the structures creating the illusion that they are somehow flowing with the river. The static forms are vibrant with the energy of Herrero’s configurations of vivid colours. The architecture vibrates, moving like the landscape, endlessly changing.

The new piece for the Contemporary Art Gallery shares its title with this intervention, for Herrero the word being transferable from one project to another signalling an ongoing commonality, functioning to both describe and name, but it also modifies into a verb, evoking his process. Herrero builds his paintings slowly, a basic plan in place but the final form undetermined, choice of colour, the space it occupies and the geometry left to improvisatory decisions. He relies on the mutability of the medium as well as the unfamiliarity of the surface to keep his actions in the present.

For Vibrantes at the CAG, Herrero shifts mediums. Akin to Matisse and his late paper cutouts, he will use sheets of coloured adhesive vinyl instead of paint, progressively developing the work across our building’s façade of windows and doors. Glass will become the field for an array of layered forms, accumulating in density and amalgamating into a cohesive composition. However even after he has finished the piece, it will constantly shift in intensity, opacity and saturation as clouds roll in or sun moves across the panes. And once the seasons change and the days darken, the interior lights will affect the colours and complexity of forms. At times their brightness will mute the vinyl palette and hide the multiplicity of shapes. The vibrancy at times may be dimmed, but the work will still pulse with the energy of its environment.

Paradoxically, this flux is key to Herrero’s work. Through form, colour and context, the artist directly addresses the division between art and life, attempting to challenge the notion that art is a specialized commodity. Here CAG’s façade acts as both a metaphor and connector — a vibrant conduit bridging inside and out, a membrane extending exhibitions into the street, directly addressing the gallery’s location and physical presence in Vancouver — at the base of a generic condo high-rise on the corner of an intersection with three other similar buildings. The uniformity of the environment functions like a well patterned camouflage — a concern for a public institution that wants to be seen — a broader civic problem as Vancouver’s skyline and downtown streetscape become indistinct, the city already commonly used by the film and television industries as a stand-in for others. Vibrantes offers a temporary reprieve, inserting a unique signature into Vancouver, the work’s changeability suggestive of a variety of extraordinary futures for a city that is still growing.

This program is generously supported by TELUS, 2010 Legacies Now and the Canadian Art Foundation.


Federico Herrero (b. 1978) is based in San José, Costa Rica. Recent solo exhibitions include Federico Herrero—Aurora, Galleri Bo Bjerggaard, Copenhagen (2010); Amalgama, Galeria Juana de Aizpuru, Madrid (2009); Amansalba, Teoretica, San José (2009); and Colorigami, Gallery Koyanagi, Tokyo (2008). Selected group exhibitions include Panamericana, Kurimanzutto Gallery, Mexico City (2010); Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, Spain ( 2010); Latin American Pavillion, 53rd Venice Biennale (2009); and the 2nd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2007). Herrero was the recipient of a prestigious best young artist award at the Venice Biennale in 2001. In 2008, Kunstverein Frieburg published a monograph on Herrero, including texts by Paulo Herkenhoff and Felicity Lunn. He is represented by Sies + Höke Galerie in Düsseldorf, Germany.