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Formed and Folded: A Virtual Show by Mimi Herbert - Online Exclusive - Exhibitions - About Bethesda Fine Art

Red Triplet (1974) at the National Gallery of Art


Bethesda Fine Art is excited to announce Formed and Folded: A Virtual Show by Mimi Herbert, featuring the Reston, VA artist’s minimalist sculptures from the 1970s through 2020.

In the spring of 2020, before the nation shut down due to COVID-19, Mimi Herbert’s sculpture Red Triplet (1974) was installed at the National Gallery of Art in the East Building’s Minimalist Gallery. The sculpture is surrounded by works by Anne Truitt, Sol Le Witt, Frank Stella, Mary Corse, and David Novros, each enhancing the other. Originally purchased by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1974, the NGA chose the piece to become part of its permanent collection when the Corcoran closed its doors. Herbert is among the Washington Color School artists who gained prominence in the 1970s with her experimentations with simple geometric shapes and bold color.

The daughter of immigrant parents, Herbert’s story is one of personal and artistic adaptation and patriotism bolstered by her experiences living in the developing world. Born in Brooklyn in 1936, Herbert’s family settled in Arlington, VA when she was 5 years old. Always artistic, she developed a love of drawing and studied theatre at Syracuse University.

Post-graduation Herbert studied Indian art and language and eventually decided to study bronze sculpture in both the USA and India. Due to financial and material restrictions in her subsequent residences in the USA and Pakistan, Herbert shifted her medium from bronze to Uvex, a pliable clear plastic that she could shape and vacuum form. Acrylic sheets became her primary artistic medium in the 1970s and continue to be today. Her complex sculptures are formed by heating sheets of acrylic to a precise temperature, then quickly twisting and folding them before they cool and solidify in thirty to forty seconds.

Over the years Herbert has returned to the American flag as a subject, inspired by her harrowing experiences of war and uncertainty abroad. With the relief at her return to America and the U.S. Bicentennial approaching, Herbert felt a surge of patriotism and created her first folded flag sculptures, which were exhibited in a solo show at Henri Gallery in 1975. This led to a commission by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, resulting in a 165-foot-long American flag pennant that spanned the 17th Street façade of the museum.

In 1990 Herbert moved to Indonesia, where she encountered the Wayang Golek theatre. Captivated by the art, Herbert began to draw the puppets and interview the master puppeteers. Her research resulted in the publication of her book, Voices of the Puppet Masters: The Wayang Golek Theater of Indonesia.

Since her return to Virginia, Herbert has re-embraced the Minimalist style she practiced in the 70s. As with Red Triplet, these works are folded, stacked, and twisted into glossy, rounded forms. The simplicity in color and subject shifts the focus to the positive and negative space of the soft, airy folds and fluid form. Today, at 83, Herbert continues to experiment with techniques and unconventional color choices. 

Due to social distancing, Herbert must work without her usual assistance, necessitating smaller, more manageable pieces that fit together to form a large sculpture. As she has done many times before, Herbert is adapting to her circumstances, finding new ways to mold, fold, and combine her medium to bold, sensuous effect.

Herbert’s Washington exhibition history includes solo shows at Henri Gallery and Gallery K, and a solo feature at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, TN, and many other public and private collections in the USA and abroad.


Bethesda Fine Art is proud to represent the artwork of Mimi Herbert.