Carlos Cruz-Diez and the reporter from La República talk about technical and theoretical problems in abstract and Kinetic art. The interview rises above the tired old conflict that roiled art circles of the period by pitting abstract art against figurative art. In Venezuelan terms, this interview took place ten years after a famous public debate about abstract art between Miguel Otero Silva (a Marxist novelist and publisher) and Alejandro Otero, who was then engaged in making his Coloritmos, an emblematic Geometric Abstraction series. Cruz-Diez happened to be in Caracas as a guest of the INCIBA (Instituto Nacional de Cultura y Bellas Artes), the institute that would sponsor his participation in the forthcoming Bienal de São Paulo; the interview noted the controversial subject: “abstract painter.” He gave a surprising answer, saying that he was just “a painter of (concrete) realities;” when he worked directly with light (the natural phenomenon) traditional painting imitated nature by transposing (onto the canvas) the effect of that light on bodies.
Given the stark conflict between his current statements and what he had said a few years earlier—when he was painting socially and politically committed figurative works—the interviewer asked for his opinion on socialist realism. Cruz-Diez replied bluntly, saying that if he does not agree with a particular political system, he can protest as a citizen. But, as an artist, he has neither the power nor the legitimacy required to solve socioeconomic problems. He mentions the example of Mexican mural painting. “Mexicans were concerned about poverty, but none of them was able to eliminate it” (…) “If we don’t like a social system, we should start a revolution to get rid of it.” What an artist should do, he claims, is “to touch people’s sensibilities and decondition them from their daily habits.”
Cruz-Diez was, at that time, exploring ways to use “light-color” as a medium for exposing viewers to that deconditioning shock, which led to his early Chromosaturations (1968–69). Rejecting “traditional painting,” he imagines a “transpositional painting” that immerses viewers in contemporary phenomenological realities, as with his Chromosaturations, which immerse them in color-saturated spaces. He believes that Kinetic art’s propositions are as important as those of Impressionism and Cubism because they represent a new world.