Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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    The Venezuelan Kinetic artist Carlos Cruz-Diez explains that his earliest experiments with color, in the 1950s, involved the phenomenon of chromatic addition. He briefly describes how the experiments he conducted from 1959 to 1963 helped him to develop the techniques with which he produced the visible effects he was looking for in his work. What he learned from these experiments and techniques contributed to his Color Aditivo series and laid the groundwork for the first Fisicromías.    

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    The Venezuelan Kinetic artist Carlos Cruz-Diez (b. 1923, Caracas) explains that his earliest experiments with color, in the 1950s, involved the phenomenon of chromatic addition. He briefly describes how the experiments he conducted from 1959 to 1963 helped him to develop new techniques with which he produced the visible effects he was looking for in his work. Cruz-Diez used chromatic addition for the first time in Amarillo Aditivo (1959), a two-dimensional work in which he drew a red line intersecting with a green line, which produced a third color (yellow) that did not exist on the support in any physical way, and that was constantly “creating and re-recreating” itself. From then on he produced patterns of parallel, equidistant lines that produced a variety of different effects when superimposed on each other. To achieve the desired results Cruz-Diez started using silkscreen printing techniques, and even created a tool, the “paralelígrafo de precisión,” with which to scale the patterns up to larger sizes. What he learned from these experiments and techniques contributed to his Color Aditivo series and laid the groundwork for the first Fisicromías.    

     

    Carlos Cruz-Diez, who has lived and worked in Paris since 1960, is considered one of the most important contemporary artists in Latin America. His work, which is often associated with Op Art and Kinetic Art, goes beyond the boundaries of these movements because it redefines painting. His radical works treat color as an autonomous, unstable element that plays a starring role in his highly personal approach, which rejects painting’s traditional static, two-dimensional quality. Cruz-Diez is a pioneer in the field of participatory art because, ever since the 1950s, his works of art have been actual “events” in time and space in which the viewer’s actions and movements contribute to the completion of the artist’s creative process.

     

    Cruz-Diez’s work, which was shown at landmark exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1965 and 1967 (“The Responsive Eye” and “Latin American Art 1931–1966,” respectively), has recently been the subject of renewed interest as a result of two exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The first of these, “Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America” (2004), put a spotlight squarely on his work. The second exhibition, “Color in Space and Time” (February 6 through July 4, 2011), was the first grand retrospective of his work to be presented in the United States. It was accompanied by a splendid catalogue, Carlos Cruz-Diez: Color in Space and Time (Houston: MFAH, 2011), where this essay was originally published.

     

    The earliest experiments that Cruz-Diez conducted with color were based on his 1950s research into the perception of color. He explains how he became interested in this field, and describes in detail the development of his visual discourse, in the prologue—“History of Structuring a Discourse on Color / Historia de la estructuración de un discurso sobre el color [2009]”—that he wrote for his book Reflection on Color / Reflexión sobre el color (Palma de Mallorca: Fundación Juan March / Cruz-Diez Foundation, 2009) [see the ICAA digital archive (doc. no. 1279691)]. His research into the phenomenon of additive color laid the groundwork for his first Fisicromías. A year after creating his first additive color work, Amarillo Aditivo, Cruz-Diez published a short essay in which he describes his new series: “Fisicromías” [Caracas, 1960] (doc. no. 1279707).