A New Carlos Cruz-Diez Projection Lights Up the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern

Beloved Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez takes Spatial Chromointerference underground.

By Brittanie Shey May 11, 2018

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Spacial Chromointerference by Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern.

HOUSTON'S LOVE AFFAIR with artist Carlos Cruz-Diez continues this weekend with the opening of an installation at the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern.

The work, Spatial Chromointerference, involves the projection of red, green, and blue lights through the columns and corners of the cistern. The lights, created by 26 digital projectors, bounce off the walls, water, and numerous white cubes floating on the cistern floor. The primary colors mix and meld to create a rainbow of effects. In addition, visitors to the exhibit become active participants in the work as they move about the room, acting as a canvas for the lights. You're encouraged to wear white clothing to amplify the experience. (Those of us at a recent press preview were given white lab coats to wear.)

This is actually the second time Spatial Chromointerference will be shown. It was first installed in 1974 in a utilities warehouse in Cruz-Diez's native Caracas, said his son Carlos Cruz-Diez, Jr. at the preview. Cruz-Diez, Jr. is managing director of the Atelier Cruz-Diez and often travels in the place of his father, who is 94 and lives in Paris.

The '70s version of the artwork was made with slide projectors and required precise measurements in order to fit the location of the installation. Cruz-Diez, Jr. calls the cistern a "unique place" and says modern technology has improved the artwork.

"With the digital projectors there are more possibilities," he says. "We can have the maximum intensity of the red, green, and blue lights set to 100." He also says the cistern's concrete walls create a blank space in which the light can be transformed.

Houstonians may remember a previous Cruz-Diez installation, the technicolor op-art crosswalks painted in front of the Museum of Fine Arts in 2011. Standing in the cistern is like looking at those crosswalks through a kaleidoscope.

"There's a huge history in Houston of our love for Cruz-Diez," says Judy Nyquist, Buffalo Bayou Partnership board member and Public Art Committee co-chair. In addition to works in the collection at the MFAH, one of the three American galleries representing the artist is in Houston, Montrose's Sicardi Gallery. Another Cruz-Diez work, Double Physichromie, sits on the UH campus.

Nyquist says Spatial Chromointerference is the largest projection Cruz-Diez has ever done. The acquisition of the artwork came through talks with Cruz-Diez's atelier in Paris.

"It was an opportunity he couldn't resist," she says. "The cistern doesn't have any of its own embellishments, so through color, line, and movement, it completely dematerialized this unique space."

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A digital rendering of the Cistern's previous 2016–17 installation, Rain: Magdalena Fernández.

Spatial Chromointerference is the second work to be exhibited in the cistern, which was built in 1926 as a drinking water reservoir and "rediscovered" and renovated in 2016. Unlike the previous work, Magdelena Fernandez's RainSpatial Chromointerference is completely silent.

"It's an immersive artwork," Nyquist says. "I think you have to be inside to see what happens."

Spatial Chromointerference, May 12–Jan. 19, 2019. Tickets from $10. Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, 105 Sabine St. 713-752-0314. More info and tickets at buffalobayou.org.

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