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Brilliant "Color"

Carlos Cruz-Diez gets large-scale retrospective at MFAH.

What is so amazing about Cruz-Diez's art is the breadth and success of his investigations. It could easily have devolved into a clever gimmick, but the artist has been continually exploring and innovating for more than five decades. He developed physically kinetic works that spun discs of colored lines or mechanically moved lines across the surface of a painting. He also created installations exploring the interactions of colored light — his Chromosaturation (1965-2010) is on view. The way-before-Turrell-did-it light installation is a three-chambered, completely white room in which red, blue and green fluorescent light blend into each other, casting their light over viewers as well as geometric forms in the space. Entering the installation and immersing yourself in the effects of shifting colored light is as close as you can get to stepping into the artist's brain.

Some of Cruz-Diez's most amazing ideas are on view only through models and projected photographs. He's created pieces for corporate lobbies and skyscrapers that work seamlessly with the architecture while avoiding "decoration" and still existing as works of art. In projects for banks, he used strips of colored Plexiglas to create shockingly transcendent environments. His chromatic phenomena have been painted over plazas and crosswalks, including those at the MFAH. (And FYI — he's got a public art piece at the University of Houston.) The artist painted optically charged vertical lines of color over a cluster of concrete grain elevators in the Dominican Republic. (Carlos, the Midwest is calling!) His program of colored horizontal lines over the concave facade of a Venezuelan skyscraper makes me want to turn him loose in downtown Houston with the world's largest painting crew.

Still a creative powerhouse at 87, Cruz-Diez has an app for the iPad and iPhone. He's been using the computer for a while now, primarily to visualize the optical effects before he constructs a piece. In the past, he wouldn't really know how the colors would interact until he built the thing. However, the way he makes pieces like the Physichromies hasn't changed. It's old-school manual labor — no CNC technology. He's devised his own machines to cut strips of colored material and put them into metal channels so they can be attached to panels. One of them is on display in the gallery, and, given his energy level, it's hard to believe the artist agreed to part with the equipment for the duration of the show.

Way before James Turrell did it, Carlos Cruz-Diez created Chromosaturation.
©2010 Carlos Cruz-Diez/Artist Rights Society, New York/ADAGP, Paris
Way before James Turrell did it, Carlos Cruz-Diez created Chromosaturation.

Location Info

Map

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

1001 Bissonnet St.
Houston, TX 77005

Category: Museums

Region: Kirby-West U

Details

"Carlos Cruz-Diez: Color in Space and Time"

Through July 4.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300.

In a charming end to the exhibition, photos of Cruz-Diez's studio cover the walls surrounding the table that displays his machine. The studio is a hive of activity, and his more-than-grown children are involved. The photos seem a little fuzzy at first, until you realize they are 3D. Cardboard glasses are provided for viewing the optical effect.

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