Carlos Cruz-Diez: Color in Space and Time
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
While in Houston, I scampered around town looking at as much art as I could with my favorite museum pal Margarete. This included going to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. I always enjoy seeing how encyclopedic museums display their collections, Pre-Columbian collections in particular. Coming from LA, I’m now accustomed to LACMA’s Jorge-Pardo-designed galleries. The Pre-Columbian galleries at the MFAH are fairly standard, but contain hoards of gold. This is because the Spanish conquistador, Alfredo Glassello bequeathed his Aztec and Incan booty to the MFAH. Not really, but an oil man and MFAH trustee, Alfred C. Glassell, Jr., did. “As a life-long collector of Asian, Pre-Columbian, and African art, he donated his excellent and extensive collections to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. These works, primarily of precious gold, are without parallel.” This would explain the gold rooms, one of Pre-Columbian artifacts, and on the other side of the building, a hall of golden African objects.
After seeing all this glitz, I was ready for a (free) temporary exhibition. At the moment (until July 4) the MFAH has Carlos Cruz-Diez: Color in Space and Time. I first experienced the Venezuelan artist’s work last winter in MOCA’s Suprasensorial show. MOCA included one of Cruz-Diez’s cromosaturacions, an interactive, enclosed space made of drywall, and filled with colored light. The MFAH show also includes a cromosaturacion work, but sooooo much more.
Going through the retrospective of Cruz-Diez’s work is amazing; you can see how his work was a product of its time, and really a product of each decade. His earliest works look like they would be at place in Roger Sterling’s office. Later works, because of changing forms and changing color palettes, look like they would be awesome paired with a lava lamp. Later works take on more pastel hues of the 80s. And so on.
A full range of Cruz-Diez’s work is explored in the exhibition of over 150 works, from his “paintings,” which are only activated by passing in front of them, to his interactive environments, to his large-scale architectural investigations across the globe (documented in a video projection). This exhibition might be my favorite exhibition I’ve ever seen, and I went twice to see it in four days. It was perfect, with one exception: the curators tried to get clever at the end of the installation with large photos that you had to look at with 3D glasses. I’m no fan of 3D, and this portion of the exhibition seemed unnecessary. Cruz-Diez’s op art is already so trippy, why would you need to look at it through 3D glasses.
The exhibition is jointly presented by the MFAH, and the Cruz-Diez Foundation, Houston, which has been hosted at the museum since 2008. I’m not sure how this partnership works exactly. The Foundation’s primary goals are: to disseminate Carlos Cruz-Diez’s investigations, to extend his ideas and contributions towards new generations, and to conserve and increase his archives in a professional documentation center. I guess they’re doing those things with this exhibition.
The exhibition continues in two locations. First in the gift shop, where all kinds of Cruz-Diez merchandise is offered. Someone buy me this tie! Second is outside at street level: five Cruz-Diez crosswalks that connect to the museum. The crosswalks were acquired by the museum a few years ago, and they’ve aged a bit, but are still very striking. This whole exhibition is striking, so if you live in Houston or are visiting soon, go immediately.
P.S. Check out this awesome Carlos Cruz-Diez app for ipad!