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Arts

100-Year-Old Houston Industrial Relic Becomes the Stage for 94-Year-Old Artist’s Crazy Cutting-Edge Light Show

This Underground Art Wonder Comes With Special Selfie Rules

BY // 05.09.18

There are art installations — then there are experiences.

A handful of artists in the world can create those — recent summer sizzlers at the MFAH for example have rolled out immersive environments, from Pipilotti Rist to Yayoi Kusama that have been blockbusters and crowd pleasers, as well as critically praised.

But it’s hard to beat a 100-year-old industrial relic. Cue the Cistern, a former underground water storage facility. This summer it trumps even the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Mies van der Rohe-designed Cullinan Hall as a venue.

And the artist inside this unique site restored and spearheaded by Buffalo Bayou Partnership is international in renown, and nearing his 100th year — the pioneering Latin American modernist Carlos Cruz-Diez.

Read PaperCity‘s recent exclusive interview with the maestro of light and color here, including how his father’s soda factory sparked his path as a proponent of Kinetic and Optical art.

Cruz-Diez is no stranger to Texas audiences. The Caracas, Venezuela-born artist, who turns 95 this August, was the subject of an epic retrospective, “Carlos-Cruz: Color in Space and Time,” mounted at the MFAH in 2011

Currently based in Paris, the avant-garde talent was not able to travel to Houston for the unveiling of “Spatial Chromointerference,” a project he first conceived in 1974.

The nonagenarian artist was nonetheless well represented at the press conference today at the Cistern — by his longterm Houston gallerist, María Inés Sicardi of Sicardi Ayers Bacino Gallery, and his son, Carlos Cruz-Diez Jr. (aka Carlitos), in from Paris where he is intimately involved in his father’s atelier, and responsible for the intricate technology involved in realizing this complex light projection for the Cistern.

In his remarks, Cruz-Diez Jr. praised the space as “an amazing, amazing place, unique I think,” that is now home for the next seven months to his father’s visionary light environment.

Buffalo Bayou Partnership board member and public art co-char Judy Nyquist — instrumental in the overall fundraising as well as being a donor with her family — said of the artist’s relationship to our city:

“Houston has a long-term love affair with Carlos Cruz-Diez.”

Nyquist went on to enumerate that the artist’s first American public artwork was created in 2007 for the University of Houston,  while six solo exhibitions have been presented at Sicardi Gallery (now Sicardi Ayers Bacino Gallery) over the past 15 years.

The artist’s dealer was among those who made the project happen. Spatial Chromointerference was realized in approximately seven months, said Sicardi and Nyquist. The gallerist called the artist in Paris to gage his interest, and the answer was an enthusiast “Yes.”

Sicardi first showed Cruz-Diez in 2004, timed to the MFAH’s mammoth survey of the Latin American continent, “Inverted Utopias.”

She saw his work for the first time two years earlier, in Madrid at the Reina Sofía in an earlier version of “Inverted Utopias,” which led to meeting him in Caracas in 2004, and developed into long-term representation of one of the leading figures of Latin American art.

Sicardi tells PaperCity the Cruz-Diez’s Cistern project aligns with the artist’s goals of making “art an experience of the people … for everyone.”

The installation follows that of another Venezuelan at the Cistern: Magdalena Fernández’s “Rain,” which inaugurated the BBP Cistern art program in 2016.

Also making the $250,000 project possible — admission fees are expected to cover the costs — and singled out by Nyquist are Leslie and Brad Bucher as major underwriters, project manager Weingarten Art Group, AV experts Prime Systems, and BBP Public Art co-chair, Geraldina Wise.

“Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern: opening this Saturday, May 12 (and running through January 13, 2019). More information and tickets are available here. Note: Thursdays free but reservations required; no children under 9 are allowed. Wear white, or borrow one of the lab coats available on site, to maximize your selfie experience.

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