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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Arturo Herrera, Venezuelan (Caracas, Venezuela born 1959)
Water and Oil Drawing
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States, Illinois, Chicago
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Gelatin silver print
image: 5.72 x 8.89 cm (2 1/4 x 3 1/2 in.)
sheet: 25.4 x 20.32 cm (10 x 8 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
The artist; Ivan Moskowitz and Rena Conti; "Gift of Herbert Moskowitz," to HUAM in 2000.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of the Moskowitz Family, Encino, California
© Arturo Herrera
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art

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Water and Oil Drawings, 1996, a series of four silver gelatin prints, Herrera takes two diametrically opposed substances and documents their inter/re-action. His experiments yield varying results; in two of the drawings the oil beads into minute, round bubble-like forms, the density of the oil congealing into a strong, circular outline against the water base, and in the other two prints, a fluid intermingling of water and oil washes across the surface, faintly forming organic impressions and shapes that span across the picture plane. These surface reactions yield quietly lyrical patterning. Herrera's careful development of the silver (gray-black) tonal range brings these forms to life. These drawings are about shapes, form, and materials (water and oil), not color or perspective. Yet upon detailed examination, the viewer sees that the oil beads occur in duplicate: each circle is connected to another, with the link extending into the matrix of the other, forming intersecting, horizontally oriented pairs. This effect suggests depth, however, one cannot be sure that the perceived depth truly exists. In one print, in which the beads conglomerate into fours, the questions arises, " is the drawing 3-dimensional" Again, Herrera's deceptively simple renderings provoke the viewer, presenting a familiar reaction (the one that commonly happens when one adds oil while boiling water for pasta or sees when one's car has leaked oil in the parking space on a rainy day) in a new way. Fragmented, individual parts cohere together in an organic whole; and the camera, lending a scientific-like lens to these laboratory slide looking drawings. As documentary photographs, the tension between appearance and reality is all the more palpable. While Herrera brings much to the forefront with both photographic series, it is his use of systems of subconscious that work within the viewer, leading to a sense of connection to and estrangement from the subjects and the questions they invoke.

Verification Level

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