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Spanning decades of diving deep into the chromatic world, 94-year-old French-Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez’s oeuvre was put together as ‘CHROMA’, an exhibition for the benefit of SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) students in 2017. Cruz-Diez has always been interested in educating people and making his extensive work on colour as participative as possible. A collaboration between SCAD, Articruz and Cruz-Diez Art Foundation, CHROMA will be travelling to other universities and museums in the United States as well. CQ speaks to Joel Bracho Ghersi, head of communications at Articruz, to get some insights into the exhibition.
Through his career, Cruz-Diez has made several types of work which he groups as “investigations,” each one aimed at a different colour phenomenon. This exhibition had to present every one of them in a way that visitors could traverse his different approaches to colour, and progressively understand his proposals and ideas. So Cruz-Diez designed one artwork of each of his investigations.
To further accomplish the objective, Cruz-Diez Art Foundation produced three documentary films for the exhibition, showing a bit of the artist life, his process of creating a discourse of his own, and the different ways in which his discourse overlaps with other disciplines. They also designed educational games that could help viewers understand the colour phenomena in each artwork.
As CHROMA intends to show the whole spectrum of Cruz-Diez’s works, it comprises two of his very characteristic immersive artworks: a Chromosaturation and an Environnement Chromointerférente (Chromointerferent Environment).
Chromosaturation is an artificial environment composed of three colour chambers - red, green and blue - that immerse the visitor in a complete monochrome situation. While the eye is used to seeing a wide range of colours, in a monochromatic chamber the retina is overloaded with just one colour, leading to unexpected reactions. Colour Haze, mixed colours, and coloured shadows may engulf the viewer’s vision. The longer one stays in the room, the more his/her eyes try, unsuccessfully, to adjust to the unusual circumstance; dimming the colour of the chamber she/he is in and intensifying the gradient of the three colours mixing together in the other two chambers.
In the Environnement Chromointerférente, a sequence of parallel coloured strips arranged vertically is projected using light onto the walls, ground, public, objects, and space. A disorientating state of motion is experienced as space it is projected on transforms and makes all that is within it transparent. This creates an environment where people and objects become one with the work, acquiring the twin roles of actors and authors in a complex chromatic event.
For CHROMA, we decided to use both the interior and exterior space of the museum. While the Environnement Chromointerférente was installed within the museum walls, the Chromosaturation was a part of another piece that became an installation itself. We used a cargo container and placed it outside the museum, with a different artwork on each side: a Physichromie and an Induction Chromatique à Double Fréquence [Chromatic Induction in Double Frequency].
The Chromosaturation was installed inside the container, so we had to paint everything white, in order to build inner walls to split the three chambers, and to install the lighting. We used fluorescent bulbs covered with special filters to achieve the exact colours the artist wanted.
For the Environnement Chromointerférente, we used four synchronized projectors with the line patterns designed by Cruz-Diez, using mapping to perfectly fit the room.
The whole container idea was perhaps the greatest challenge of all. Our architecture team had to design the interior so that the narrow space inside the container could fit the requirements of Cruz-Diez’s work. They also had to design an installation system for each one of the exterior pieces. Cruz-Diez’s artworks are frequently modular pieces, so they are made of discrete elements that work together side by side.
The Physichromie for the container was made of over 200 pieces arranged in 23 different modules that were attached one by one to a previously fixed structure to the side of the container. The Induction Chromatique à Double Fréquence was not as complex, given that it was a flat piece, but it was also made of different modules with its own fixing system. It was a group effort by Articruz and SCAD.
Currently, the exhibition is being offered to universities and museums across the US, and some of them are keenly interested. It may also travel outside the States, but that’s not scheduled as of now.
In any case, the idea is that it travels with all of its components that can be adjusted to each place along with local curators and exhibition teams. The cargo container, for example, is an important part of the exhibition and so is the idea of being both in and out of the museum walls.
Cruz-Diez has always been interested in outdoor interventions, integrating art to architecture and urban space, and bringing it to the daily life of people. So public interventions are planned to be part of CHROMA every time it is presented, although they could be adapted to each location.
You can read more details about CHROMA on SCAD’s website.
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