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Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Radical Colour Experiments at Puerta Roja
Blouinartinfo - Nicholas Forrest


Puerta Roja is presenting the first solo gallery show in Hong Kong by Franco-Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez – one of the founders and main protagonists of the Kinetic and Optical art movements. Titled “Mastering Colour,” the exhibition spans more than 60 years of the 93-year-old artist’s career, showcasing a wide range of works that exemplify his exhaustive research in the fields of colour, line, and perception as well as his pioneering experimentation with new technologies and materials. “Art is a complex structure of communication, expression, discovery, invention,” he has said.

Although his works are in more than 60 museums and prominent public collections around the world, the significance of Cruz-Diez’s contribution to art history remains significantly underappreciated by the general public. At the centre of his practice is a series of groundbreaking colour theory philosophies, through which he generates visually and intellectually stimulating works that transform colour from a mere piece of visual information into a dynamic and evolving experience, turning each member of his audience from a passive viewer into an active participant.

Describing his art as exploring “the perception of color as an autonomous reality evolving in space and time, unaided by form or support, in a perpetual present,” Cruz-Diez’s temporal and spatial investigations challenge the boundaries between art and science. The “Mastering Colour” exhibition features an immersive “Environnement Chromointerférent,” but also works from the series “Couleur Additive” and “Induction Chromatique.” Recent works made in 2014, such as “Physichromie” 1889 and “Physichromie” 1920, are also on display.

In the exhibition catalogue, Cruz-Diez explains: “the substantive nature of colour is the core concept and departing point for my visual discourse, contrary to conceptions that only see colour on a medium, an aid, a complement, a composition or embellishment to form. In my work, colour has an intrinsic value that allows it to affirm itself through its own behaviour and ambivalences. In my works, changes in the spectrums of colour take place as they do in nature, when the colour of the sky transforms into chromatic nuances which produces pleasure in us.”

To find out more about his practice and the exhibition at Puerta Roja, BLOUIN ARTINFO got in touch with the artist and asked him a few questions.

What was the original motivation and inspiration for the style of work you create and how has that style developed and evolved throughout your career?

When I was a student at the Caracas School of Fine Arts, I found myself wondering many times, why everybody was painting in the same way. As time went by, I also kept asking myself why the beauty of color in art was only enjoyed through pigments applied with a paintbrush on a canvas, if color is in space and everywhere. Everything is color.

Whilst looking for answers to my questions, I dedicated myself to studying not only the definitions and theories of color by Aristotle, Goethe, Newton, and Young, but also Chevreul’s principles of color and Albers’ investigations. They all made me realize that color is by nature, unstable.

Meanwhile at the end of the 1950s, I started my investigations on the physiology of sight as well as its scientific theories. From there, I started getting particularly interested in the studies of Dr Edwin Land. A scientist from Harvard, he discovered that when the physical colors red and green are filtered by simply adding or subtracting one of them, the entire chromatic spectrum is reproduced.

I started to carry out experiments to create an artistic language allowing me to communicate what I discovered: we have made color a certainty over the centuries, but it is not certain. Color is a circumstance generated in time and space and is continuously changing. When we say “red” or “blue” we talk about the generic “red” or the generic “blue”, not about their various nuances, which are ever-changing, unstable, impossible to classify or memorize.

What is the basis and philosophy behind the Physichromies and what do they aim to convey and express to the viewer?

I have been working on Physichromies since 1959. They are static and dynamic mediums, structures designed to reveal three chromatic conditions: additive, subtractive and reflective. They act as a “light trap” in which a series of colored frames interact with each other and transform, to create a new chromatic range that fill the space between the vertical strips that cover all the artwork. Moreover, per the movements of the viewer and the intensity of the surrounding light, they create a series of chromatic variations, just like the ones we find in the real space of natural landscapes. Hence the name Physichromie, by calling into play the color “light”, meaning the physical color.

Could you explain what you mean when you say you want to provoke rather than imitate realities?

We have spent centuries trying to imitate reality, transposing the dynamics of life onto a canvas, a static medium. Why keep on doing the same thing? I want to provoke realities through artworks that are continuously changing, the same way reality is continuous changing. The artworks I make are not simply paintings, sculptures, or prints - they are realities, “mediums of chromatic events” the viewer discovers as he or she interacts with them. My contribution is to turn the viewer’s passive contemplation into a participative mindset, creating a dialogue between them and the artwork.

What is the importance of colour in your work and how do you interact and engage with colour to create the desired effects in your work?

As an artist, I have the discipline of a researcher and experimenter. Each one of my works is the result of intense reflection. I have carried out eight researches on the different conditions of color. My first experiments led me to the Couleur Additive and the Induction Chromatique, which are both the genesis of my chromatic discourse. From there, I developed my other investigations and proposals: Physichromie, Chromointerférence, Transchromie, Chromosaturation, Chromoscope and Couleur à l’Espace. In these investigations, color is conceived as an ephemeral, autonomous and ever evolving reality that can exist without the help of the form and the support.

What are the latest works you are showing in Hong Kong and what are their primary characteristics?

The Works on display in Hong Kong are representative of some of my investigations on color. The Physichromies, for example, reveal “color in the making,” surging and disappearing before the viewers’ own eyes, creating a series of chromatic variations depending on the viewer’s movements.

The Couleur Additive is based on the optical mix of two or more colors that create new chromatic spectrums depending on the light or the distance of the spectator.

The Induction Chromatique is closely related to the phenomenon of post-image. The color that appears is both there and not there, it exists in a virtual state but is just as real as the pigments used to create it.

The Environnement Chromointerférent aims to create a situation of immateriality, transfiguration and ambiguity of color in space, through movement. The spectator becomes both the actor and author of a chromatic event, which evolves though the real time and space.

When I make an artwork, new solutions constantly appear before me. That is why an artist never thinks his discourse is finished.

How would you describe the aims and goals of your work and the effect you want your work to have on the viewer?

As a kinetic artist, my aim is to turn the traditional passive contemplation into a participative one. In my works, color appears and disappears during a dialogue generated in real time and space. I want each spectator to find in color, something that will resonate within them in an effective way, without external influences, without having to decode stories or symbols but by simply discovering and perceiving the chromatic phenomenon as is. I love offering to the spectator the possibility to get amazed and to enjoy observing color in space.

Source: blouinartinfo.com / Nicholas Forrest 

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