b. 1978, San José, Costa Rica
Federico Herrero was born in San José, Costa Rica, in 1978, and studied painting at the Pratt Institute, New York, from 1997 to 1998. Since 2001, he has undertaken commissions in Canada, Costa Rica, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
Herrero’s practice stands outside Latin America’s Conceptual, muralist, and geometric abstraction traditions, yet his work references all of these styles. Herrero’s images are often populated by patches of color, alien-like figures, and disembodied eyes, and reveal a fascination with crossing boundaries. The artist blurred the line between public and private, for example, in an intervention titled Fictional Publicity (2000), in which he hung small paintings all over his native city; some remained in place for days, others vanished after just a few minutes. For the Havana Biennial (2003), Herrero transgressed national borders by painting mappa mundi at the bottom of a public pool, allowing Cuban swimmers to imagine themselves roaming the globe.
Herrero also questions the spatial boundaries of museum and gallery interiors, taking an installation-like approach to the presentation of his work in such contexts. The artist’s 2008 exhibition at Kunstverein Freiburg, Germany, for example, paired conventional paintings on canvas with stripes and patches of color painted directly onto the interior architecture. The artist’s fascination with limits is evident, too, in the canvases—small bubbles of bright color sometimes peep from behind the primary subject, as in Blue Mountain (2008), or seem to stare curiously at the viewer, as in Green Landscape with Nine Circles (2008). Herrero’s work is essentially a study of liminal spaces—gaps between figure and background, canvas and wall, private and public, and (perhaps most significantly) between work and viewer. The forms and colors in his paintings also capture the energy of urban Costa Rica and its vibrant tropical setting.
Herrero has had solo exhibitions at Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, Venice (2006); Kunstverein Freiburg, Germany, and CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (both 2008); Galería Juana de Aizpuru, Madrid, and TEOR/éTica, San José, Costa Rica (both 2009); 21-seiki Gendai Bijutsukan, Kanazawa, Japan (2012); and La Casa Encendida, Madrid (2013). His work has also appeared in the group exhibitions the Venice Biennale: Plateau of Humankind (2001); Havana Biennial (2003); Diverse Ways of Happiness, Aichi World Expo, Nagoya, Japan (2005); Interrogating Systems: CIFO Grants and Commissions Exhibition, Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, Miami (2008); Play with Me, Museum of Latin American Art, Los Angeles (2012); and On Painting, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain (2013). In 2001, he won the Venice Biennale’s Special Prize for a Young Artist. Herrero lives and works in San José.