Obituary: Carlos Cruz-Diez
17 August 1923 – 27 July 2019
“An artist's work is never done”:
Carlos Cruz-Diez, Venezuelan painter and kineticist, died July 2019.
In the end it was selfies that once again made his work ubiquitous, albeit selfies that only had a tenuous connection with this work: photos showing people departing at Caracas airport. Commissioned in 1974, the departure hall floor of Caracas airport with its colour line vibrations was typical of the graphics created by the late Carlos Cruz-Diez, and was one of the largest works commissioned in terms of surface area. But the selfies were no longer the cheerful farewell pictures they once had been, but symbols of bitterness about a politics claiming to be left-wing, that had degenerated into blatant attempts to hold on to power and one that émigrés couldn’t and wouldn't endure any more.
Carlos Cruz-Diez, Venezuelan painter and kinetic artist and long-time Paris resident, was an artist, who, like his friend and fellow countryman Jesús Rafael Soto and the Argentinian Julio Le Parc, helped to establish Latin America's post-war worldwide reputation in modern art that went well beyond folkloric borrowings. He began working soon after the Second World War when, thanks to its oil wealth, Venezuela, had started to become Latin America's reform-oriented showcase state in architecture as well as art. In other words, at a time when the Argentinian artists of the group Arte Madí and the Brazilian avant-garde were taking their inspiration for political opposition from Europe and its constructive-concrete tendencies rather than the abstract expressionism of the United States. In 1960 Diez joined the circle of the legendary Op Art and Kinetics gallery owner Denis René in Paris. From then on, his large-scale and wall-filling works were represented at major presentations of these art movements, such as The Responsive Eye in New York or Licht und Bewegung in Bern (both in 1965). Depending on the viewer’s position, his lamellar reliefs highlighted different pictorial levels, thereby stimulating activity and engagement with the objects, forms and colours for people in motion. The formats also predestined him for creating publicly accessible art in spaces from Miami to Marseilles to Ingolstadt, which, unlike the emotive murals of the great Mexicans, dispensed with a need to be ideologically charged. Cruz-Diez’s art is easily accessible through its colour, and it playfully inspires the viewer to engage with it.
In 2018, the Ingolstadt Museum of Concrete Art showed a major retrospective, and the accompanying catalogue published by form takes Cruz-Diez’s colour spatiality into account in the design of the catalogue. This volume has now become a memorial, but reflecting Cruz-Diez’s view of the reception of his art, he is finally quoted as saying: “An artist's work is never done”.