Latinamerican Art

Carlos Cruz-Diez (Caracas 1923 – Paris 2019)

When we met for lunch in Paris in 2018, we talked about the ingredients that Carlos regarded as essential for his well-being, his cheerfulness, and the drive he still felt at his age. To him, these were a peaceful surrounding in the circle of his beloved family; love, esteem, and respect in his contacts with the rest of the world, and, last but not least, always an exciting project awaiting completion. Carlos, with the characteristic twinkle in his eye, was ever ready for new shores! 

Bustling artist and virtuoso entrepreneur

It had rarely felt so good to hug and kiss a far older man! With Carlos, this seemed perfectly normal; his beard was heavenly soft, and his embrace gave comfort and shelter. I always had the impression that his spontaneous conduct was completely authentic and unpretentious. There was nothing artificial about him; he always came across one to one, full of spirit, and with total presence.

Fisicromía 2, 1959, Caracas, Cardboard, casein mounted on plywood, 100,9 x 50,8 x 5,6 cm, Photography: Peter Schälchli, Zürich, Courtesy: Daros Latinamerica Collection, Zürich

Our talks and negotiations regarding the works purchased for the Daros Latinamerica Collection were likewise transparent and sincere. It took me some time to discover the full dimension of Carlos’s creative power, which was intensely reflected in his various studios and the activities there. Gradually, I met the members of his family and started to understand how cleverly and elegantly he managed to involve his entire family in his ventures. Normally, a family enterprise and professionalism tend to be mutually exclusive—with Carlos, however, the exact opposite was the case.

Never have I experienced such a smoothly running art business. Everything went (and goes) like clockwork. His entire team was working full of enthusiasm at the various sites of production, coordinated by the Maestro himself, who, notwithstanding his age, had effortlessly turned into a computer virtuoso («Hans, you simply cannot imagine how easy it is to handle everything now that I have the computer. If only I had had this tool many years earlier!»—while he heartily went at the keyboard), and he maintained a permanent lively contact and information exchange with his large team over several monitors.

Artistic innovator and gifted inventor

Carlos had always embraced technology. As soon as technological innovations became available, he would integrate them into his art productions. He built the machines required for producing his works himself. Today’s high-tech printers were constructed in closest collaboration and coordination between the manufacturer and the Studio Cruz-Diez. All his life, Carlos was not only an artistic innovator, but also a gifted inventor. He loved to bring his art to perfection and to continually improve his works according to his ideas. If necessary, he would hire his own architects for his projects in public spaces, and of course, he built his own photographic studio to document his work. His absolute diligence and love for details, without which his oeuvre would not be feasible, also extends to such areas as his personal archive, which is absolutely state of the art and unparalleled in the art world. Carlos has made outstanding provisions for the future, too: even those works without his «artist’s hand» count as independent works from his production. In addition, all of his more recent works can be reproduced under supervision of the studio so that no single work will ever be lost. This is another instance of Carlos’s imperative sincerity and transparency, something that we sorely miss in many another artist of his time…

Sharp mind and deep humanity

Hans Herzog, Carlos Cruz-Diez and Waltercio Caldas in front of the “Inducción cromática a doble frecuencia”, Casa Daros, Rio de Janeiro, 2011, Photography: Atelier Cruz-Diez Paris, Copyright: Adagp Paris 2020

Aside from all that, we shall not forget Carlos’s incredibly fresh mind, his agility, and his intelligence. Even at a high age, he was still more than a match in terms of intellect for most of his colleagues. Quick-witted, sharp, and sometimes almost mischievously, he parried all arguments offered to him. Carlos certainly had no time to spare for redundancies, so it was absolutely possible for him to remind his conversation partners in the midst of one of our panel discussions that there was no time to waste and that we ought to turn to more basic issues instead of uselessly going round in circles. His logic was unerring and conclusive. And when everyone was tired and wanted to return to the hotel in the evening after an event at Casa Daros in Rio de Janeiro, it was Carlos who would point out that he wasn’t going to bed yet, either, so what kind of attitude was that?

I would not presume to assess the oeuvre of this great artist here; this has already been done elsewhere. He was one of the really great ones of his times. Op art, kinetic art, and geometric abstraction are simply unthinkable without him. And like all great artists, he was primarily concerned with the cause—in his case, this was color in space. Color to him was no certainty, but a circumstance. And he continuously brought this idea into the focus of his thought and creation: La couleur comme réalité autonome.

Beside his fabulous light installations, the «cromosaturaciones», and a wide range of objects and paintings, he also created numerous, singular interventions in public spaces in and between Havana, Caracas, Miami, Zürich, and the tropical rainforest that bear convincing testimony to his creative genius. What I will always keep in mind, however, is the cheerful, profoundly human Carlos, who up to the very end greeted his environment full of curiosity and with a childlike joy.

Carlos Cruz-Diez, Paris, 2018, Photography: Lisa Preud`homme/Atelier Cruz-Diez Paris, Copyright: Adagp Paris 2020


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