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—Carlos Cruz-Diez’s 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” in Exh. Cat., Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Color in Space and Time: Cruz-Diez
, 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). Upon his move from Venezuela to Paris in 1959, Cruz-Diez would create the first of his three-dimensional 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
, p. 95).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.
The present work, Physichromie 1506 (executed in 2015) is a rare, privately-commissioned example. Grand in scale, the work generates its own unique experiential environment. Warm variations of red wrap itself around the participant, while vibrant cascades of blues, yellow and greens reveal themselves, creating an overall intimate and continuously changing chromatic experience.