Carlos Cruz-Diez - Latin America New York Tuesday, May 26, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    The Collection of Paolo Barni, Milan
    Vismara Arte, Milan
    Falchi Arte Moderna SAS, Milan
    Sotheby's, Milan, Modern & Contemporary Art, November 26, 2008, lot 254
    Private Collection, New York
    Sotheby's, New York, Latin American Art, May 23, 2012, lot 45
    Private Collection, New York
    Private Collection, Brazil

  • Catalogue Essay

    Towards the end of 1956, after two trips to Paris, Carlos Cruz-Diez returned to his native Venezuela, where he began an intense life-long investigation into color theory that would drastically alter the course of art history within the country. Along with his contemporaries, Alejandro Otero and Jesús Rafael Soto, Cruz-Diez was a pioneer who developed the basis of the Venezuelan kinetic art movement, which would place emphasis on abstraction and the physical participation of the viewer in order to fully activate the work.

    Unlike other kinetic artists whose works incorporated moving parts, Cruz-Diez’s found himself particularly interested in the interplay of light and color upon varied surfaces. He felt strongly that there must be a dissociation of the tradition binomial of color – form. He eloquently expressed this theory stating, “The cultural conditioning founded upon the ‘cult of the shape and the image,’ impedes us from comprehending the subtle occurrences that take place in space and time.” In other words, Cruz-Diez was bent on removing the importance of the ‘image’ while simultaneously integrating space and time within his works, which he achieved by creating visual effects through the physical interaction of colors.

    Cruz-Diez continued to develop his color theories after discovering articles written by Edwin Land, the inventor of the Polaroid camera, which looked at the configuration of the entire color spectrum through combinations of red and green monochromes. This finding was a key factor in the development of the first Physichromie series in 1959, which subsequently evolved from a limited palette of solely red and green to a myriad of colors across the spectrum that would create an even more dynamic interplay. Derived from the scientific term “physical chromatism,” Cruz-Diez coined the term “Physichromie” to function as the title for these new creations. This neology emphasizes the significance of this series through its inherent tie to scientific innovation via investigation. The Cruz-Diez Foundation defines a “Physichromie” as a “light trap in a space where a series of color frames interact; frames that transform each other, generating new ranges of colors not present on the support.”

    The present lot, executed in 1973, exemplifies the visual dynamism of this series as it captivates the viewer with its sensorial power. With this piece, Cruz-Diez tests the boundaries of perception and the spatial elements of our reality, aiming to enhance our experience of color and address how it is configured by its supporting space. He has removed traditional subject and form completely, replacing them with an entirely new focus, that of color as its own entity and something that should be explored and examined in its own right. As the viewer confronts the work, a remarkable thing happens: the entire color spectrum is visible despite the fact that only certain colors were applied to the surface, asserting Cruz-Diez’s deep knowledge of color theory. The visible colors shift as the viewer moves around the piece and vibrancy of the work changes when different levels of light hit the surface. In this sense, the work is presented as a physical embodiment of color, a space where colored parallel strips interact with angles of refraction, structured in a very specific manner so that they blend in the spectator’s vision, thereby changing the work’s appearance as the spectator moves. This raises the question of reality versus perception and redefines the viewer’s relationship to art. In this respect, Cruz-Diez transformed our conception of color from simply a decorative property to a formative subject that ignites the senses and contains the ability to change within time and space.

  • Artist Biography

    Carlos Cruz-Diez

    Venezuelan • 1923 - 2019

    Carlos Cruz-Diez moved from his native Caracas to Paris in 1960. He is a major protagonist in the field of kinetic and Op Art, a movement based on "an awareness of the instability of reality."
            Inspired by such artists as Georges Seurat and Josef Albers, his work focuses on the kinetic energy of color and its existence as an autonomous and evolving reality, independent from form or structure. Much of his work, in particular his Physichromie series, is created by plotting lines of contrasting color alongside each other, creating an illusion of movement as the viewer's position relative to the artwork shifts.

    View More Works


Physichromie No. 655

acrylic, plastic elements and aluminum frame on wood
39 3/8 x 47 1/4 in. (100 x 120 cm)
Signed, titled and dated "Physichromie No. 655 Cruz-Diez Paris 1973" on the reverse.

$220,000 - 280,000 

Sold for $257,000

Contact Specialist
Kaeli Deane
Head of Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1352

Latin America

New York 26 May 2015 4pm