Beyond the Easel

Tate Etc.

“Tate Etc: Could you describe how Physichromie No. 123 was actually made? You invented a special machine to create it…

Carlos Cruz-Diez: That was the happy result of an accident. I produced Physichromie No. 123 in 1963, using materials that were available at the time – cardboard strips with coloured edges, with which I built the Chromatic Event Modules, and exterior sheets of a rather fragile reflective material called Lumaline that I placed between each module. One day a heavy box of packing material fell on the work and reduced it to rubble; it stayed like that in the workshop for years. When I started using aluminium U-shaped sections instead of cardboard or PVC strips, I returned to the project and rebuilt it, replacing the fragile Lumaline with sheets of highly polished stainless steel that were like mirrors. All my works are produced according to a plan and then coded – thus eliminating all romantic traces of the artist’s hand – so they can be reconstructed should they deteriorate over time. We know that many of the materials that artists use today are perishable, so, as a precaution, I record the construction specifics and the colour codes of all my works in a log that is kept in the archives of the Cruz-Diez Workshop and the Cruz-Diez Foundation. My works are built by hand in a slow, complex process requiring tools that are sometimes simply not available. I have, therefore, had to design many of the devices I need for each stage of the assembly, such as a section folder with rollers, several presses for silkscreen printing, a number of dyes…

Tate Etc.: What was your intention behind the creation of the Physichromie series of works? You have talked about the ‘aim to project colour from line into space’.

Carlos Cruz-Diez: The series is the result of a great deal of time spent thinking about the concept of colour in painting. We were, it seemed to me, in the grip of a millennial stagnation and were still in thrall to this concept. If colour in nature appears before our eyes as a mutating event that colours the space we inhabit and exists in a constant state of change, why does painting treat it like an absolute event and transform it into something that the artist places on a plane by applying brush to canvas? Might it be possible to create the same pleasure that colour stimulates by making colour express itself in all its surprising mutations, behaving exactly as it does in reality? If the space we inhabit is coloured, why insist on enclosing colour in a static, two-dimensional support? Colour should fully occupy its environment, which is space. The solution expressed in Physichromie No. 123 was the result of the thinking, the experiments, and the successes and failures that began in Caracas in 1954.”

Beyond the Easel, Tate Etc., issue 24, spring 2012

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