Excerpt: Carlos Cruz-Diez in conversation with Ariel JiménezSaturday, August 17, 2019
The following text is an excerpt from the book Carlos Cruz-Diez in conversation with Ariel Jiménez, published by Fundación Cisneros/Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros in 2010. A pioneer in color theory and perception, Cruz-Diez and such artists as Alejandro Otero and Jesús Rafael Soto launched the abstract movements that placed Venezuelan art among the international avant-garde during the 1950s. Born in Venezuela in 1923, Cruz-Diez traveled in Western Europe throughout the 1950s, absorbing Bauhaus color theory and trends in geometric abstraction. He returned to Venezuela in 1957 to help initiate a massive wave of experimentation in Abstract, Concrete, Op and Kinetic art.
Carlos Cruz-Diez: ...I had an experience of which I have spoken previously, when I was designing a catalogue for the New York Philharmonic. One day, while reviewing the design, which featured a red page facing a white page, I discovered something quite basic, which is that the white page turned pink because of the color that reflected off the red page. I also observed that the intensity of the reflected color increased or decreased in relation to the distance between the two pages and the intensity of the light source. At that moment I realized that a piece like Doble animación del plano could only be executed in space, and only by working with reflected light. At that time I called this an "indirect reading" because the color is radiated rather than produced on the support. If that color radiation was handled properly, the color would only be perceived in space and not on the painted surface. This was hardly an extraordinary observation, but it did give me the solution I was looking for so that I could completely saturate the space with color, just as the valley of Caracas is saturated when the sky is bathed in the colors of the sunset. This is what I achieved directly afterward, with my Physichromies.
Ariel Jiménez: Whenever you talk about the Physichromies, you talk about what happens in the valley of Caracas at sunset, and you do so, moreover, using the same terms that an easel painter would use to describe his landscapes. It almost seems as if, in a certain way, the Physichromies came about as a kind of reduced model of what occurs in a landscape. If we observe what happens in the valley of Caracas, in the relatively narrow stretches that separate the Ávila on the north from the smaller mountains to the south, we realize that this situation is rather similar to what goes on between the cardboard strips or the colored acrylic in your Physichromies.
Carlos Cruz-Diez: I have always talked about realities, not to imitate them but to provoke them. The Physichromies are something I invented so that I might express myself with the joy of a painter in action, of painting in the process of being created, stripped of traditional concepts and techniques. In traditional painting, the artist's work instantly becomes part of the past, and what the viewer contemplates and deciphers is an action that exists in the past. The color that reaches the viewer's gaze "was painted," is frozen in time. The Physichromies, on the other hand, force us to deal with an event of color in the process of occurring in the moment, without past or future. But I am definitely a painter. You could say that a Physichromie contains painting in its purest form. All the effects and pleasures of painting are there: the harmonies, the glazing, the transparencies, even though it has nothing to do with the painting of the past.