Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez was a pioneer of the Op Art movement. With a practice centred on the perceptual experience of art, his extensive research repositioned colour as the primary force in guiding an artwork's visual response. In 1970, Cruz-Diez represented Venezuela at the Venice Biennale.Read More
Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Cruz-Diez studied art at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Aplicadas, Caracas, graduating in 1945.
While his earliest works were figurative, a move to Paris in 1960 prompted his exploration of the Op Art movement and a life-long exploration into the theory and practice of colour.
Carlos Cruz-Diez was a pioneer in the field of Op Art, a movement based on working with geometric forms to create optical effects. Cruz-Diez's practice examined how colour and light created the illusion of movement and the transformation of colour.
Traversing site-specific installations, paintings, and prints, much of Cruz-Diez's optical work is forged around spatial perception and the viewer's participation in the experience of art.
Cruz-Diez conducted much research into colour theory, and today is understood as one of the key 20th-century thinkers in the field. His research contributed to the reconsideration of relations between the artist, spectator, and work of art, framing viewers within a participatory process rooted exclusively in the effects of colour.
'With a practice centred on the perceptual experience of art, his research repositioned colour as the primary force in guiding an artwork's visual response,' Ocula Advisory explains.
Cruz-Diez's rigorously theoretical approach to art making prompted him to view colour as a physical phenomenon that could be manipulated depending on both context and the viewer. His findings culminated in one of his most heralded series, 'Physichromie, which focused on creating the illusion of movement through the manipulation of light and colour.
In 1959, Cruz-Diez began his heralded 'Physichromie' series, which turned into a life-long investigation into the idea of chromatic autonomy and the exploration of the physicality of colour.
A product of the experiments he had been conducting on the heightened effects of 'colour reflection' while in Paris—where he subsequently moved the following year—this series of work embodied Cruz-Diez's adoption of European modernism.
Drawing on George Seurat's pointillist technique and the colour theories of Josef Albers, works in this series, including Physichromie Panam 229 and Physichromie 2577, explore the physical effects of colour on the viewer, while encouraging the experience of colour transformation.
The works in the series are composed of thin, coloured bands that alternate between vertical strips of Plexiglass. Acting as a 'light trap', the surface's colour alters radically depending on the viewer's position, while the coloured bands appear to shift and vibrate.
Carlos Cruz-Diez's solo exhibitions include The Weight of Form. The Graphic Design of Carlos Cruz-Diez, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2021); Cruz-Diez: El color haciéndose, Museum of Contemporary Art Panamá, Panamá City (2019); La autonomía del color, Galería RGR, Mexico City (2018); Carlos Cruz-Diez. Color Motion, Museum für Konkrete Kunst, Ingolstadt (2018); Cruz-Diez en blanco y negro, Alianza Francesa, Panama City (2017); Un être flottant: Carlos Cruz-Diez au Palais d'Iéna, Palais de Iéna, Paris (2016); Within the Light Trap: Cruz-Diez in Black and White, Americas Society/Council of the Americas, New York (2014); Carlos Cruz-Diez: Circumstance and Ambiguity of Color, China Academy of Art, Zhejiang (2013), among others.
Cruz-Diez's group exhibitions include A Graphic Revolution: Prints and Drawings in Latin America, The Cleveland Museum of Art (2020); ReVisión: Art in the Americas, Denver Art Museum(2020); συν χρόνος (SYN KRONOS), Galería RGR, Mexico City (2019); Seven Stations: Selections from MOCA's Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2019); Concrete Matters, Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2018); Eye Attack. Op Art en kinetische kunst, Stedelijk Museum Schiedam (2017); The Illusive Eye: Op Art and the Americas in the 1960s, El Museo del Barrio, New York (2016), among others.
Cruz-Diez's works have been collected by museums and public collections worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, among others.
Cruz-Diez's website can be found here.
Annabel Downes | Ocula | 2022