Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Sudden Appearance of Colorful Crosswalks

Driving to church a few weeks ago, I noticed some colorful crosswalks near the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), and thought they were probably the work of art students, perhaps intended to call attention to the Museum district. In any case I thought they were lively and fantastic. I've always enjoyed art in public places, especially on sidewalks or buses, or in the form of murals, art you can't help but see, art for everyone.

I found out a bit more about the new crosswalks when I went to the MFAH last week to see the North Looks South exhibit, a show that highlights the museum's growing Latin American art collection. The crosswalks were the designed by Carlos Cruz-Diaz, a Venezuelan kinetic and op artist. The museum guard told me the sidewalks were painted by people from the Cruz-Diaz foundation. Subsequently, I began to recognize his vibrant visual style in various paintings in the exhibit.

His installation known as "Chromosaturation" (first unveiled in Paris, 1965) involves 3 inter-connected chambers, each room saturated with red, green or blue fluorescent light. As you stepped through these spaces wearing the soft protective booties supplied by the museum, the color hues, tones and relationships changed every inch along the way. I enjoyed my experience of so-called chromatic ambience. And the museum guard clearly enjoyed leading the way. I've always wondered if museum guards don't get terribly bored on the job, but at least for this show, I bet they enjoy taking turns leading viewers through the Cruz-Diaz chambers.

The show was also introduced me to to Gyula Kosice, an artist who plays with hydrokinetic forces and Martha Boto, a luminist. All in all, an exciting, impressive show I'd like to walk through a second time. It made me realize how little I knew of Latin American art beyond Frida Kahlo and David Siqueiros, who are also represented. North Looks South remains on view through September 27, 2009.

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