Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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    This document appeared in the catalogue for the one-man show of works by the Venezuelan Kinetic artist Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Galerie Denise René in New York in November 1971. Cruz-Diez explains that he has always been guided by the idea that color is an autonomous element, and insists that his work has been an attempt to create a “new perception of art.” He also briefly describes additive color and the perceptual effects produced by his Physichromies, Chromointerferences, and Chromatic Inductions.   

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    The Venezuelan Kinetic artist Carlos Cruz-Diez (b. 1923) wrote a number of pieces that appeared in the catalogue for his one-man show at the Galerie Denise René in New York in November 1971. In the first of these, entitled “Toward a New Knowledge of Color,” Cruz-Diez explains that he sees color as an evolving “situation” that can affect human beings much as we are affected by cold, heat, or sound. He argues that color does not appear in its pure state in nature, as it does when it interacts with its immediate environment. He explains that he hopes his Chromosaturations will contribute to a perception of color in isolation that exploits the viewer’s reaction as much as possible. He sees color as an autonomous element, and that idea has been his guiding principle throughout his entire career. Cruz-Diez adds that what happens between the situation and the viewer is, in his opinion, a “new perception of art.” Later in the catalogue he briefly explains his Physichromies, which combine three different states of color: additive, reflexive, and subtractive. He also discusses the perceptual effects produced by his Chromointerferences and Chromatic Inductions.

     

    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 that included some of the artist’s explanations about the origins of his ideas: “Fisicromías [Physochromies] Caracas, 1960” [see the ICAA digital archive (doc. no. 1286115)], “Additive Color [2010]” (doc. no. 1279739), “Chromatic Inductions [Paris, 1973]” (doc. no. 1286145), “Chromosaturation [1975]” (doc. no. 1286223), and “Chromo-interference Environments [Caracas, 1964]” (doc. no.  1286161).

     

    Cruz-Diez explains in detail how he tried to structure “a new perception of art” through his own discourse on the subject of color in the prologue “History of Structuring a Discourse on Color [2009]” (doc. no. 1279691) that he wrote for his book “Reflection on Color / Reflexión sobre el color” (Palma de Mallorca: Fundación Juan March / Cruz-Diez Foundation, 2009).