In this article, Carlos Díaz Sosa, the Venezuelan art critic and personal friend of Carlos Cruz-Diez, discusses the prevailing evaluation criteria in Venezuela during the second half of the twentieth century, and the desire to have the country’s modernizing movement acknowledged. Cruz-Diez’s generation was emerging from a lengthy period (1909–35) marked by the authoritarianism of the General Juan Vicente Gómez regime (a dictatorship whose rural base was indifferent to urban life), which was then followed by the Second World War that caused a suspension of cultural exchanges with Europe. It was a generation afflicted with an immense feeling of solitude and isolation that prompted a burning desire for modernity and recognition. One of the characteristic traits of Venezuelan modernity was the idea of “achieving universality,” which meant being recognized as an artist whose work was prized and considered valid anywhere on the planet.
The article highlights Cruz-Diez’s participation in an event organized by the eminent art critic Frank Popper for the Centre National d’Art Contemporain (Paris) that included works by forty-two artists from all over the world. Cruz-Diez was awarded second prize at the “tough international competition,” where he took part in the “Art in the Street” event organized by the Centre. In conventional terms, this did not mean presenting an artwork in the street; it meant creating what Cruz-Diez then called (in Marxist terms) a “deconditioning event” consisting of a sensory shock designed to awaken urban dwellers who lived alienated lives in large modern cities, forcing them to reflect on their lives and their living conditions.
The article quotes the curator of the event, Frank Popper, who spoke of “a direct, live communication with the viewing public,” which was a far cry from the silence that greeted the work in Venezuela in spite of it being “just as important as the work of any other artist in the field of international art.”