Carlos Cruz-Diez, ‘Physichromie No. 558’, 1971, Phillips
Carlos Cruz-Diez, ‘Physichromie No. 558’, 1971, Phillips

From the Catalogue:
The present lot, Physichromie No. 558, is a remarkable testament of Carlos Cruz-Diez’ innovative principal of promoting color as an independent reality developed in real time and space. Cruz-Diez began producing Physichromies early in his career in 1959. His interest in color was triggered during his time studying art in Caracas, after which he began working in advertising agencies as well as exploring the artistic possibilities of photography. This experience gave him an insight into the application of color in various art forms and would forever dictate his fascination with chromatic structures and human perception of them. Cruz-Diez traveled throughout Europe, during which time he discovered constructivism and continued to develop his color theory. By the time he moved permanently to Paris in 1960, he had already begun creating fully developed compositions of repeated geometric patterns as seen in the Physichromies. During this period, Cruz-Diez was also working alongside his Venezuelan contemporaries, Jesús Rafael Soto and Alejandro Otero. Soto and the Nouvelle Realistes’ fascination with abstraction and specifically the superimposition of squares to trap light would come to affect Cruz-Diez greatly as he developed his own artistic language. Simultaneously, Cruz-Diez was looking to painters whose focus was on the investigation of color theory, ranging from the Post-Impressionist master Georges Seurat to the Bauhaus leader Josef Albers.

In 1965, Cruz-Diez began experimenting with transparent colored strips in a series titled Transchromies, in which he assembled large colored strips at varying distances. The theory underlying this technique was for these strips—spaced at different distances and arranged in a specific order—to allow for a wider grasp of the chromatic spectrum that would change according to the intensity of light. More importantly, in experiencing this range of hues the viewer is given access to the ambiguous space. In 1969, Cruz-Diez was invited to showcase his Transchromies in the exhibition Cruz-Diez. Cinq propositions sur la couleur at the renowned Galerie René Denise. This series relates closely to the Physichromies, which—as previously stated—Cruz-Diez had begun producing as early as 1959 and has continued to produce throughout his career, due to their infinite variations and astounding innovative nature. In this series Cruz-Diez breaks down color into a myriad of spectra by adding colored strips—much like those used in Transchromies to trap light—to his radiating silk screen productions. However, viewer participation through movement is required to fully engage with these works—allowing color to develop in real time and space—putting into practice one of Cruz-Diez’s fundamental theories. This dynamic involvement is an act of transfiguration that allows the work to continually evolve in conjunction with the change of lighting throughout the day, in some ways harkening back to Impressionism in an unlikely yet undeniable way.

In 1970, Cruz-Diez began producing Physichromies in monumental formats that were able to achieve an unprecedented visual impact and range of color, one of which was exhibited in the 1970 Venice Biennale. The present lot—spanning close to 100 inches and producing the full color spectrum—is a continuation of his Venetian masterpiece. The scale of the Physichromie No. 558 transports viewers into the world of color, much in the same way that Abstract Expressionism absorbs and captivates viewers by immersing them in a chromatic, energetic visual experience where different colors affect not only the mind but also the soul in a meaningful way. When observing and moving around Physichromie No. 558, the viewer becomes entranced by the intense colors radiating from every angle. Although sometimes slightly disorienting, it also produces a remarkably seductive effect. It is no surprise that at 94 years of age, Cruz-Diez not only continues to be a leading and active figure in the Kinetic and Op art movements, but we also see how his work has inspired a younger generation of artists like Olafur Eliasson, who create pieces that similarly explore light and form.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: signed, titled and dated "PHYSICHROMIE No. 558 - CRUZ-DIEZ - PARIS JUILLET 1971" on the reverse

Galería Conkright, Caracas
Private Collection of León Ramniceana, Caracas (acquired from the above)
Private Collection of Reli Waissmman, Caracas
Private Collection, Miami

This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Carlos Cruz-Diez to be published by the Cruz-Diez Art Foundation.

About Carlos Cruz-Diez

Venezuelan painter and kinetic artist Carlos Cruz-Diez broke new ground in color-optics during the Kinetic art movement of the 1960s. Deeply interested in color relationships, aesthetics, and perception, his influences include Georges Seurat's shimmering, pointillist compositions and Josef Albers’ illusionistic square paintings. His optical experiments focus on how color and line can create a sensation of movement as the viewer’s relative position to the artwork changes. In 1959, he shifted the emphasis of his work from paint to colored light.

Venezuelan, b. 1923, Caracas, Venezuela