Lot 140
  • 140

Carlos Cruz-Diez

100,000 - 150,000 USD
175,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Carlos Cruz-Diez
  • Physichromie 111
  • signed, titled and dated PARIS/JANVIER 1964 on the reverse 
  • acrylic and plastic elements on wood panel 


Galerie Jacques Kerchache, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1964

Catalogue Note

Controversial, groundbreaking and innovative, Carlos Cruz-Diez has been considered as one of the radical artists of post-war modern art. Choosing to dedicate the entirety of his 60-year artistic career to one of the most complex and problematic subjects in the history of post-war modernism—the concept of color—his contribution to the still ongoing dialogue on this topic is equal to those of his peers Yves Klein, Barnett Newman, Donald Judd, and  James Turrell (Mari-Carmen Ramírez, “The Issue at Stake is Color”, Color in Space and Time: Cruz-Diez (exhibition catalogue), New Haven, 2011, p. 27). The premise he proposed in the 1950s is the belief that color is in fact a living organism capable of endless mutations and possibilities of metamorphosis. The challenge that Cruz-Diez imposed upon himself was one that few artists had attempted before, “to liberate color from the two-dimensional plane” and transform it into a constantly changing “physical experience” (Ibid, p. 26).

Classically trained as a painter at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Artes Aplicadas in Caracas, Cruz-Diez’s fascination with color began during this rather formal, early stage. The figurative still lifes and landscapes painted in the 1940s eventually progressed, taking on more abstract-geometric considerations. By the mid-1950s, he abandoned the canvas, turned away from the traditional formalist philosophies of art-creating, and began his experiment with building abstract relief-like constructions made of plywood, casein paint and modulated cardboard strips. In 1959, Cruz-Diez would create the first of these assemblages, known as Physichromies. A product of the combined words “physical” and “chromatic, it is defined simply by Cruz-Diez as meaning a “light trap” that can capture and change color and causes an emotional response by the viewer (Ibid, p. 95).

Upon arriving and settling in Paris in 1960, Cruz-Diez entered an art environment fervent with energy. Europe at the time was a hot bed of innovative and anti-traditional approaches to art – Art Informel, Group ZERO, Art Brut, the GRAV group, Arte Povera, Kineticism, and Op-Art were all emerging across the continent. There was a spirit of collaboration amongst this network of artists with the ultimate goal of making art for the senses. Art was becoming an event—no longer just something to look at and contemplate, it was transforming into a communal, active experience. In this complete break with traditional production, artists such as Alberto Burri, Lucio Fontana, Antonio Tàpies, amongst others, were employing spontaneous and irrational methodology and using uncommon, new media. This environment would further advance Cruz-Diez’s intent of the Physichromie, he would later state “I felt tempted to create works with a double discourse, mixing the static with the dynamic…I thought that by contrast, the idea  of color appearing and disappearing in space would be more evident” in this particular case. The Physichromie is Cruz-Diez’s challenge to traditional painting and concepts of color: unlike painting which captures a specific moment in time, these works are intended to express a reality of the present moment and our “in-real-time” encounter with the work. Executed in Paris in 1964, Physichromie 111 is one of the earliest examples of the advanced iterations, from this pivotal, experimental period.