This is the first solo gallery exhibition in Hong Kong of artist Carlos Cruz-Diez, one of the founders of the Kinetic and Optical Art movements of the 1950s.
The exhibition showcases over six decades of tireless research into colour, line and perception, as well as experimentation with new materials and technologies.
“Carlos Cruz-Diez: Mastering Colour” at Puerta Roja, SOHO 189 Art Lane, Hong Kong, is the first solo gallery exhibition of Franco-Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez in Hong Kong. Timed to coincide with Art Basel Hong Kong 2017 and the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association’s “Art Gallery Night”, the exhibition is on view from 18 March to 25 May 2017.
The show is also part of Le French May 2017 in Hong Kong, and is accompanied by events, talks and community engagement workshops, highlighting the theme of French culture and artistic presence. An art workshop co-organised with The Sovereign Art Foundation as part of its ‘Make it Better’ programme for underprivileged children in Hong Kong is done in collaboration with the Cruz-Diez Art Foundation Learning Lab, explaining how colour is used in his work. To engage the younger generation, Puerta Roja collaborates with the French music agency, Cliché Records, to curate an exclusive multidisciplinary performance event “For the Love of Art” in the gallery space on 16 May. The two DJs at the performance Rifain and Miya play sets that respond to Cruz-Diez’s artwork.
Born in 1923 in Caracas, Cruz-Diez relocated from Caracas to Paris in 1960 to further his career as an artist. At that time, there was a trend of Latin American intellectuals looking to make their mark in Paris seen as the cultural capital of modernisation. Paris was also the epicentre for kinetic art. His works were included in Mouvement 2 at the Galerie Denise René of 1964. With other like-minded artists, Cruz-Diez challenged tradition and sought to democratise art by collaborating on projects and showing work in public spaces. They used research, reason and mathematics to demystify romantic notions.
Hailed as one of the founders of the Kinetic and Optical Art movements of the 1950s, Cruz-Diez is part of over 60 international museum collections, including the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Tate Modern, London; Caracas Contemporary Art Museum, Venezuela; and Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York. He has been exhibiting works in the Asia-Pacific region since the 1980s, in Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Many of his works are also installed in public spaces.
Founder of Puerta Roja, Adriana Alvarez-Nichol comments:
We are honoured not only to have this exhibition for one of the most influential artist of the 20th century at Puerta Roja, but also present his iconic oeuvre to the Hong Kong audiences, strengthening our programming to further enhance the awareness of Latin-American contemporary artists in the Asia-Pacific region.
Active viewer participation in the experience of colour
In “Induction Chromatique” and “Couleur Additive” series, viewers experience additive, reflective, inductive and subtractive colour in a destabilised manner. Cruz-Diez’s works explore the physical effects of colour on the viewer, transforming their experience of art from passive into active. As the viewer changes their viewing angle, the colours of the works continuously change, creating an optical illusion.
Cruz-Diez was inspired by the works of French colour theorist and scientist Michel Eugène Chevreul and artists like German-born American artist Josef Albers, Hungarian-French artist Victor Vasarely and Spanish painter Diego Velázquez. 19th century Impressionism, which featured radical bright colours, also inspired Cruz-Diez. However, while the Impressionists only managed to record the changing colour of light, Cruz-Diez’s work captures in real time the ephemeral nature of colour that is devoid of form.
Mathematical arrangement of vertical geometric coloured bands
Cruz-Diez began his “Physichromie” series in 1959, presenting large-scale grid structures. The vertical bands on the seemingly flat surface are rendered in a contrasting palette. They are arranged with mathematical regularity into multiple geometric planes. The viewer experiences the oscillation of colours in a single work from one chromatic range to another while walking across the gallery. The optical effect tricks the viewer into believing that they see hovering colours that are not present, but based on individual visual perception. Such spectacle is meticulously created by Cruz-Diez to form a “light trap” in a space where a series of colour frames interact and transform each other as they are seen from different angles.
Commenting on his work, the artist says:
I speak about realities not to imitate them but to provoke them. The Physichromies are an invention to express myself with the delight of a painter in action, in which ‘the making of the painting’ can be observed, stripped from traditional concepts and techniques. The colour that reaches the eyes has been painted and remains suspended in time; my pieces, on the contrary, confront viewers with colour created in the instant, in real time.
Immersive Kinetic Art
The show at Puerta Roja includes a site-specific immersive installation that viewers can walk into and experience the altered perception of colour. Bands of light in different colours are projected into the space. Moving from one side to another, they create an oscillating optical effect. In a video documentary showcased in the gallery, Cruz-Diez remarks:
Colour is not a certainty. It is a situation. It is ambiguous.
While on the philosophy of life, he thinks that
Art and life cannot be separated because they are one and the same thing.
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