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Exhibitions & Events

Alternating Currents

José Pedro Costigliolo, Rectángulos y  cuadrados CLXIV, 197627 September 2003 - 31 October 2003

This exhibition celebrates the tenth anniversary of the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA).

Alternating Currents refers to the dynamic relationship between modern art in Latin America and modernism in Europe, as well as to the extraordinarily diverse strands within Latin American art. Each room of the exhibition will contain works grouped around a particular theme. Geometric abstraction has a strong and distinctive character in Latin America, with its own history and links to the art and architecture of Pre-Columbian America. Rich veins of popular art and craft feed into contemporary practice, in striking contrast to the strong tradition of academic drawing and painting. Surrealism in Latin America overlaps with hyper-realism and is informed by the long-standing familiarity with psychoanalytical ideas in Latin America. Visual artists have long been engaged with Latin America's turbulent political history and there is an outstanding tradition of political print-making, while satirical themes are widespread. Contemporary artists from Latin America have made a powerful impact internationally in recent years, and examples of experimental, conceptual and object-based works will conclude the exhibition.

Image: Pedro Costigliolo, Rectángulos y cuadrados CLXIV, 1976

Carlos Cruz-Diez: Chromointerference

27 September 2003 - 30 October 2003

The installation of Carlos Cruz-Diez's Chromointerference at the University Gallery, University of Essex and at firstsite @ the minories Chromosaturation, offers a rare opportunity to experience the work of this internationally respected kinetic artist in the UK.

Cruz-Diez’s Chromointerferences, which he first began to produce in the 1960s, extend this principle not only by immersing the viewer fully in the work, which is contained in an isolated, darkened space, but also by involving the physical movement of the work itself. In the room, a number of projectors superimpose various sets of vertical lines on angled vertical walls, that shift and are transposed over one another, intensifying the sense of movement and colour. Between the projectors and the walls are three-dimensional objects, including the viewers themselves.

Cruz-Diez was born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1923 and has been based in Paris since the 1960s. His experiments with light, movement and especially colour have spanned a career lasting more than 50 years, which has included exhibitions at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Modern Art Museum in New York and the Olympiad of Art at the Seoul Olympics. Cruz-Diez has also exhibited in the UK and his works are included in the collections of the Tate, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America. 

Cruz-Diez's intense interest in the properties and possibilities of colour began when he worked as a graphic artist for an advertising agency in Caracas. In contrast to previous artists, who tended to use colour largely in order to define the form of recognisable forms and objects, Cruz-Diez wanted to make colour the most important aspect of the work of art, stripping it to its bare essentials. He also yearned, like other kinetic artists, to make art with which the viewer could interact and which would stimulate the senses in a very direct way.

In Cruz-Diez's kinetic works, which have also been described as Op art, the movement is both real and apparent. Chromointerference comprises a darkened room with white walls in which a projection casts vertical lines of different colours onto walls and three-dimensional objects, including the viewer. The lines shift and change, intensifying the sensation of movement and the creation of 'virtual' colours that emerge and disappear depending on the position of the viewer.

In Chromosaturation the light is static, but the chromatic experience is intensified by bathing the viewer in different coloured light. He or she traverses three interconnected rooms that are drenched in green, red and blue and that allow the viewer to experience themselves and their environment in a very different way. Perhaps we want to mention the sense of visual distortion that the passing from one colour to the next produces?

Cruz-Diez's Chromointereference and Chromosaturation both belong to series that he began in the 1960s and which represent advanced stages in his experiments with colour that, like all of his work, continue to evolve and expand. In line with his belief that art and artists should always be 'of the moment' Cruz-Diez strives to make use of new technologies and techniques. The installation at firstsite @ the minories will therefore include computer terminals where people can create their own works based on Cruz-Diez's theory of colour.

Joanne Harwood, Director 

Image: Carlos Cruz-Diez at Art Exchange

Carlos Cruz-Diez: Chromosaturation

27 September 2003 - 30 October 2003

The installation of Carlos Cruz-Diez's Chromointerference at the Art Exchange, University of Essex and at firstsite @ the minories Chromosaturation, offers a rare opportunity to experience the work of this internationally respected kinetic artist in the UK.

In Cruz-Diez’s Chromosaturations, a series also begun in the 1960s and installed in firstsite @ the minories, Colchester, the impact of colour on the individual is taken to extremes. In this work the viewer is drenched in colour as he or she traverses three interconnected spaces, one bathed in blue light, another in red and another in green. The opaque walls isolate the viewer from the outside world and transform the Chromosaturation into an intense physical and psychological experience. The effect of colour saturation on the brain is still being researched but is known to be a powerful phenomenon.

Cruz-Diez was born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1923 and has been based in Paris since the 1960s. His experiments with light, movement and especially colour have spanned a career lasting more than 50 years, which has included exhibitions at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Modern Art Museum in New York and the Olympiad of Art at the Seoul Olympics. Cruz-Diez has also exhibited in the UK and his works are included in the collections of the Tate, the Victoria and Albert Museum and ESCALA (Essex Collection of Art from Latin America).

Cruz-Diez's intense interest in the properties and possibilities of colour began when he worked as a graphic artist for an advertising agency in Caracas. In contrast to previous artists, who tended to use colour largely in order to define the form of recognisable forms and objects, Cruz-Diez wanted to make colour the most important aspect of the work of art, stripping it to its bare essentials. He also yearned, like other kinetic artists, to make art with which the viewer could interact and which would stimulate the senses in a very direct way.

In Cruz-Diez's kinetic works, which have also been described as Op art, the movement is both real and apparent. Chromointerference comprises a darkened room with white walls in which a projection casts vertical lines of different colours onto walls and three-dimensional objects, including the viewer. The lines shift and change, intensifying the sensation of movement and the creation of 'virtual' colours that emerge and disappear depending on the position of the viewer.

In Chromosaturation the light is static, but the chromatic experience is intensified by bathing the viewer in different coloured light. He or she traverses three interconnected rooms that are drenched in green, red and blue and that allow the viewer to experience themselves and their environment in a very different way. Perhaps we want to mention the sense of visual distortion that the passing from one colour to the next produces?

Cruz-Diez's Chromointereference and Chromosaturation both belong to series that he began in the 1960s and which represent advanced stages in his experiments with colour that, like all of his work, continue to evolve and expand. In line with his belief that art and artists should always be 'of the moment' Cruz-Diez strives to make use of new technologies and techniques. The installation at firstsite @ the minories will therefore include computer terminals where people can create their own works based on Cruz-Diez's theory of colour.

Joanne Harwood, Director 

Raúl Piña: El conejo es o está muerto?

28 March 2003 - 31 May 2003

In March 2001 ESCALA commissioned Raúl Piña to create a site-specific installation in the foyer of the Albert Sloman Library entitled ¿El conejo está o es muerto?(The rabbit is or is dead?).

Using paint and electricity, Raúl transformed an entire wall with the image of an anthropomorphic jaguar surrounded by a series of twenty symbols inspired by pre-Cortesian painted books from Mexico. These signs, of animals and other natural phenomena, comprise a ritual set with multiple meanings that were used by the Aztecs and other peoples for divination. In this installation each sign was connected to the body parts of the Jaguar Man as an expression of the harmony and connectedness of this figure, who represents the non-Western world and who is present in much of Raúl's work.

The answer to the question 'The rabbit is or is dead?' appeared to be 'not quite'. Despite the technical hitches Raúl's installation continued to enliven and enrich the library for many more weeks and was one of the most successful collaborations between ESCALA, the Albert Sloman Library and artists from Latin America to date.

Joanne Harwood

First published in the Report, Issue 9, Autumn 2001