PST: LA/LA - Couleur Additive by Carlos Cruz-Diez

Carlos Cruz-Diez's original work, Couleur Additive, was commissioned by The Broad as part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles, taking place from September 2017 through January 2018 at more than 70 cultural institutions across Southern California. Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty.

Since 1975, Cruz-Diez has applied his research on color by producing large-scale ephemeral interventions on crosswalks and walkways around the world, bringing art from inside a museum’s traditional walls out into the community. Through his use of crosswalks and walkways, the public becomes participants in and co-authors of the artworks as they interact with and move through them at various times of day. “A work of art in the public space is magical in that people take possession of and become fond of it,” said the artist.

Cruz-Diez is one of the great figures in the field of kinetic and optical art, a movement that explores the instability of perception. In the 1950s, inspired by how the physical interaction of colors and the eye produces optical events, Cruz-Diez moved away from figurative painting and transitioned to a study of color, which remains his focus today. As he developed his practice, he aligned his exploration with those of scientists, philosophers, and engineers, and received encouragement from his artistic contemporaries in Paris (particularly Jesús Rafael Soto). Central to the artist’s work is the idea that color, unstable and constantly evolving, is elemental to our perception of the world.

Cruz-Diez has applied his research on color through eight investigations. The Couleur Additive series, which he began in 1959, was the first investigation, and is based on the radiation of color. When one plane of color touches another, a darker vertical line appears at the point of contact. This virtual line contributes to a third color, produced by the eye and not physically on the canvas or surface. Cruz-Diez isolates and repeats this optical phenomenon. The viewer is activated, creating patterns and colors through their interactions with the artwork. Couleur Additive (2017) at The Broad, consisting of four crosswalks at the corner of Grand Avenue and 2nd Street, is an example of this body of work. 

The most famous of Cruz-Diez’s investigations are the Chromosaturations, artificial environments composed of three chambers—red, green, and blue—that immerse the visitor in color from artificial light. The conditions create disturbances in the retina, which typically receives a wide range of colors simultaneously rather than a single monochromatic field. “This activates and awakens notions of colors in the viewer,” says the artist, “who becomes aware of color’s material and physical existence.”

Other investigations include Physichromie, Induction Chromatique, Chromointerférence, Transchromie, Chromoscope, and Couleur à l’Espace. The Cruz-Diez Foundation website has additional information on each of Cruz-Diez’s investigations.

Image Credits: Rendering of Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Couleur Additive, 2017 for The Broad in association with Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. Courtesy of the Cruz-Diez Art Foundation and the artist.