In this article the Venezuelan art historian, Ariel Jiménez, addresses two concepts that Venezuelans continued to see as opposites. His thoughts are based on the ideas he developed in discussions with Carlos Cruz-Diez (1923–2019), with whom he worked for years in his workshop in Paris. Jiménez discusses both concepts (realism and abstraction) based on things that Cruz-Diez said during his training: Post-Impressionist and Cubist ideas, which were essentially criticisms of the notion of “pictorial realism” festooned with representative conventions that, while seeming to be “real” in optical terms, were not in fact realities. The text addresses the notion of “drawing” as an abstraction that takes certain elements from reality and creates an efficient fiction. Such is the case of “depth,” which techniques such as aerial and linear perspective create on the plane of the canvas, even though the only real thing in painting is the pictorial plane. In response to the “realism of appearances” created via ancient pictorial techniques, the author posits the notion of a ”phenomenological realism” with which Cruz-Diez, rather than attempting to create the illusion of something real, brings the viewer face-to-face with concrete realities. One of which is an optical mix of colors that prompt the appearance, also retinal, of shades of color that are not present in chemical form on the support. They are, therefore, optical phenomena that viewers perceive as “illusions,” but which are unquestionably “real phenomena” produced by the physiological characteristics of our vision.
Jiménez contents that is why Cruz-Diez is considered a “realist painter,” and even a “naturalist” who produces a nonrepresentative form of painting. The author is merely putting the artist’s theories into words without adding any observations of his own. Channeling the poet Paul Valéry (1871–1945), he tries to imagine the action taken by an artist as he codifies and organizes what he observes in nature and then uses it to construct a significant event that his viewers find stimulating. Nothing more than that.