The Franco-Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez (Caracas, 1923) has lived and worked in Paris since 1960. He is a major protagonist in the field of Kinetic and Optical art, a movement that encourages 'an awareness of the instability of reality.'1Read More
Carlos Cruz-Diez graduated from the School of Visual Arts and Applied Arts, Caracas, in 1945. While still at art school, he worked as an illustrator for popular Venezuelan newspapers and magazines such as La Esfera, Elite, and El Farol. From 1946 to 1955, he was the creative director at the Caracas branch of McCann-Erickson, the international advertising agency, and contributed illustrations to the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.
He first went to Europe in 1955 and lived in El Masnou (Cataluña, Spain), where he began a defining phase in his career, creating his earliest abstract compositions (Parénquimas) and his first Objetos Rítmicos Móviles [Mobile Rhythmic Objects]. He visited Paris that same year, where he saw the Le Mouvement exhibition at the Galerie Denise René. In 1956 he quit producing figurative social protest painting and returned to Venezuela, where he opened the Estudio de Artes Visuales, a visual arts studio for graphic and industrial design. It was during that period that Carlos Cruz-Diez started developing the conceptual platform for his work based on optical and chromatic phenomena, a process that led to the creation of his first Color Aditivo [Additive Color] and Fisicromía 1, in 1959. He and his family settled in Paris in 1960, where he met and discussed his ideas with international artists such as Agam, Tinguely, Soto, Buri, Picelj, Morellet, Camargo, Lygia Clark, Le Parc, Calder, and Vasarely.
Carlos Cruz-Diez articulated his exploration of the phenomenon of colour in eight projects: Couleur Additive [Additive Color], Physichromie, Induction Chromatique [Chromatic Induction], Chromointerférence [Chromo-Interference], Transchromie, Chromosaturation, Chromoscope, and Couleur à l’Espace [Color in Space]. His works present colour as an autonomous reality that evolves in space and time, unaided by form or support, in a perpetual present. In the late 1960s, he produced a number of installations for urban landscapes in Caracas, Miami, Washington, Houston, Paris, Seoul, Sao Paulo, Panama, and Madrid, among other metropolitan areas. In his book Reflexión sobre el color [Reflection on Color] (Caracas, 1989), he clearly and succinctly outlines the evolution of his pictorial and theoretical process.
After settling in Paris, Carlos Cruz-Diez showed his work at several historic exhibitions, such as Bewogen Beweging at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1961), and The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York (1965). In 1968, he presented his first Chromosaturation at the Cinétisme, spectacle, environment exhibition at the Maison de la Culture in Grenoble, France. In 1970, he took part in the XXXV Venice Biennial, where he had his own solo show at the Venezuelan Pavilion. Carlos Cruz-Diez. Color in Space and Time, the exhibition organised by The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) in 2011, was the most complete retrospective of his work that had ever been assembled. In 2013, he was among the most distinguished artists to participate in the exhibition Dynamo. Un siècle de lumière et de mouvement dans l’art. 1913—2013, at the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. In 2014, he created a Chromatic Environment for the exhibition Cruz-Diez. Color Espacial at the Centro Niemeyer, Spain. Then in 2016, he took part in the exhibition Eye Attack. Op Art and Kinetic Art 1950—1970 at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark. Lately, the SCAD Museum of Art brought his chromatic investigations to the forefront with the solo exhibition Chroma (2017).
Over the course of his career, Carlos Cruz-Diez has received many prestigious awards and medals, such as the Grand Prize at the III American Art Biennale in Cordoba (Argentina, 1966), the International Prize for Painting at the IX Sao Paulo Biennial (Brazil, 1967), and the Order of Andrés Bello, First Class (Venezuela, 1981). He was named Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters (France, 2002), and Officer of the National Order of the Legion of Honor (France, 2012), and was given an honorary Doctorate by the Universidad Central (Venezuela, 2014). He was most recently named SCAD deFINE ART honoree (USA, 2017).
In 2005, his family created the Cruz-Diez Foundation, whose mission is to protect, preserve, promote, and research his artistic and conceptual legacy. In 2014, the Foundation published his memoirs, Vivir en Arte, recuerdos de lo que me acuerdo [Living in Art: Memories of What I Remember].
Text courtesy La Patinoire Royale | Galerie Valérie Bach.