These documents are of particular interest because they shed light on the practical and theoretical processes of the young Carlos Cruz-Diez (1923–2019) who, in the 1950s, was embroiled in contradictions that dogged him for the rest of his life. He was awarded this prize barely a year before starting on his early abstract works in 1954; in other words, before relinquishing the ideas that he so fiercely championed at the time. He was, on the one hand, among those who sought to develop a typically American form of expression, one that ignored the overwhelming European influence that (whether they liked it or not) had inspired them; these were creators and intellectuals with Marxist leanings and nationalist interests. On the other hand, Cruz-Diez was appalled that no one (in Europe or the developed world) had any interest in what happened in Latin America or third world countries. He was fearful of missing a historic opportunity to do something important. He dreamed of producing “universal” work that would have an impact beyond Venezuela and the Americas. His schoolmates, now living in Paris, especially Alejandro Otero and Jesús Rafael Soto, had similar ideas that they expressed with equal passion.
The author of the article, who is identified as P. P., knew Cruz-Diez well; he had been following him since, as a teenager, he published his first comic strips in the newspaper La Esfera; then, after enrolling at the Escuela de Bellas Artes, when he gained recognition and was selected to show his work at exhibitions; and, eventually, when he was awarded the Henrique Otero Vizcarrondo Prize. P. P. focuses on El Velorio (The Wake), discussing the artist’s technical and theoretical interests. He notes something that was important to Cruz-Diez, which was using tempera, a technique that had fallen into disuse. It interested him because, at that time, he saw himself as a “primitive American,” one of many who were laying the groundwork for a future “American art.”
P. P. stresses that “the very ingenuity of artistic expression” is an essential part of what Cruz-Diez considers an artwork; that is, one that reflects the typical customs of the Venezuelan people. The young man describes himself as a politically committed artist who addresses social problems and wants his painting to represent a typically American form of expression. He ends the interview by explaining that his current work is based on the recent archeological discoveries of indigenous ceramics made by his friend Miguel Acosta Saignes. These statements notwithstanding, a little less than a year later Cruz-Diez experienced an inner conflict that led him to start work on abstract projects, examples of the “universal” painting that would identify him as one of the most ardent champions of a form of art that was aligned with internationalist trends.