Collection

Carlos Cruz-Diez (1923 - )

Untitled (1996)

Screen print on paper
height: 65cm
width: 50cm
Print

Commissioned by ESCALA 1996

53-1996

Carlos Cruz-Diez’s career spans more than sixty years with exhibitions around the world. This includes a long relationship with ESCALA, which began in 1996, three years after the Collection was founded, with the donation of a work from his Physichromie series and the commission of this untitled print. This long-term partnership also led to the production of two exhibitions in 2003: Chromointerference, held at the University Gallery (now Art Exchange) and Chromosaturation, co-organised by the University of Essex and firstsite in Colchester.

Cruz-Diez was born in Venezuela in 1923 where he studied fine arts and later worked as the creative director at McCann-Erickson, an advertising company in Caracas. In the late 1950s, he taught at, and was co-director of, the Caracas School of Fine Art, the same school he attended as a young man. During this time he first began his experimentations with colour through the Physichromie series. This exploration forged his career as one of the leading figures of Kinetic art, a style that explores movement; either through the viewer moving around the artwork, or embodied in the artwork itself. In his works, Cruz-Diez melds colours, lines, and patterns to often disorientating levels. A characteristic of most of his works is his use of moiré patterns, which are created by overlapping several designs, at different angles, to create new ones.

When I look at Untitled (1996), I can see how ESCALA and other museums are enraptured and drawn to his artworks. They are visual cacophonies that pull the viewer in with their vibrating colours and patterns, or as Cruz-Diez writes himself, “they resonate”. In this untitled work, Cruz-Diez arranges extremely precise, straight, bold lines of orange, purple, and grey (colours chosen to resonate in the UK) to create the background. In the centre, he overlays more bold lines, now in a dark green and grey-green. The lines are slightly offset in their spacing, allowing varying amounts of the background colours to show through, creating an unstable, almost intoxicated, square pattern of colour in the middle of the artwork. The orange brightens against the green and ripples downward through the square; it seems to vanish as quickly as it appears. In 1983, Cruz-Diez wrote that he wanted viewers to ‘live a changing situation which allows [them] to discover colour’(1). I would argue that it is through the movement in the patterns and the way the colours appear to come alive, like the mythological statue Galatea by Pygmalion, where this discovery is made, as we experience with Untitled. This is the continual and evolving beauty of Carlos Cruz-Diez’s artworks.

1. Carlos Cruz-Diez in Carlos Cruz-Diez: La couleur virtuelle de Cruz-Diez – Cruz-Diez’ Virtual Colours. Extract of Cimaise no. 162/163. Paris, 1983.

(Text commissioned by ESCALA for the exhibition Connecting through Collecting: 20 Years of Art from Latin America at the University of Essex, 2014)

Sarah Demelo, 2014

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