In this interview, Margarita D’Amico asks Carlos Cruz-Diez (1923–2019) about things that have a crucial bearing on Venezuelan modernity, including the desire to transcend national borders in search of more universal languages. She briefly touches on the subject of Venezuelan artists who work with abstract languages and industrial techniques and their presence on the international stage. She discusses the trademark enthusiasm of the Geometric Abstract and Kinetic art movements and the development policies that defined Latin America’s sociopolitical modernist trends that were, however, more focused on grand infrastructure projects than on education, health, and housing. Cruz-Diez suggests that contemporary art should contribute to the humanizing of modern cities; he believes that artists should work in cities and be involved with urban architecture. He speaks excitedly about his current projects in which he works closely with architects on the original designs of buildings, as he is doing at the Asociación de Ejecutivos del Estado Carabobo in Valencia, Venezuela. He loves working on murals in urban environments, like the ones he will have installed in Lyon, France, the Plaza Andrés Bello in Caracas, and the El Guri dam in the State of Bolívar. These projects are unquestionably in line with modernist development policies and their grand undertakings that are oblivious to the severe imbalances in the national system.
The journalist steers the discussion toward the subjects she finds interesting, such as contemporary technology. The conversation turns to holography, and she asks whether a technique of that nature is of interest to an artist who works with light and color. Cruz-Diez says it is, although he has not yet figured out how to use it as a tool that could transcend the fascination it generates. He explains that he is interested in technology’s ability to delight viewers with its expressive power. As an example, he mentions a cube he made in Paris that changes color when it is stroked. The journalist asks about the specific nature of the art of our time. Cruz-Diez focuses on language problems and underscores another of his basic ideas, which is that artists must commit to their particular time and, whenever they start work on a new project, must invent painting based on the techniques of their period. The title of this article, “History begins and ends with me,” refers to the fact that every generation invents the painting that reflects its historical moment in time, creating its own “discourse” that is different from the discourse of artists in the past. Francisco Goya and Diego Velázquez both painted like no one had ever painted before, and it would be an unpardonable mistake to attempt to revive the painting of the past—a subtle reference to the so-called painting of the 1980s that attracted considerable attention in Europe. Even in Venezuela, where many artists talked about returning to an expressive form of painting, a retour à l’ordre in the wake of avant-garde experiments, which could once again address the great themes of humanity and do so by embracing the expressive tools of the past.