This is produced in partnership with The Broad, home to the 2,000 works of art in the Eli and Edythe Broad collection, which is among the most prominent holdings of postwar and contemporary art worldwide, and presents an active program of rotating temporary exhibitions and innovative audience engagement.
Approaching the Broad Museum from the east, Zach Rothenberg took Second Street, climbing a steep ridge crowned by the Disney Concert Hall. “We came to the top of the hill and I was like, ‘Okay, we’re in a new place, a new district.’ I immediately associated it with the museum,” says Rothenberg, a visitor from Seattle. He instinctively responded to the colored crosswalk, a mix of blue, orange, neon green and white, a fixture at the intersection in front of the Broad since Labor Day. Part of the Getty’s sweeping exploration of Latin American and Latinx art, Pacific Standard Time:LA/LA, it is the work of 94-year-old Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez entitled “Couleur Additive.” And after March it might be gone for good.
“We’re going to review that with the city,” curator Ed Schad tells Artbound about a labyrinthine process that granted the Broad a revocable permit through the Board of Engineering, subject to review after six months. In the coming weeks, the museum will be sitting down with L.A.’s Department of Transportation to determine the future of the artwork. “You see how the crosswalk is doing. There’s a series of agencies in the city that have approved and sort of given their stake to this project. I think most of it is just gathering the support of your neighbors, making sure that everybody is fine with the crosswalk. It’s everything from restaurants to busses to people holding performances to students needing access to their schools.”
For three days over Labor Day weekend the intersection was closed down and a team of students, mostly from nearby High School of Visual and Performing Arts, swarmed the scene with cans of common house paint. Overseen by members of Cruz-Diez’s studio, including family members, they got feedback once a day from the artist who Skyped in from his home in Paris.
“It was tedious cause it is hard to work with a big group of people and that’s always difficult, but I did have fun. I met new people and painting is just always fun,” says Edith Delgado, who participated along with classmates, including Berenice Padilla and Geovani Cruz.
“I got to bond with [Cruz-Diez’s team] ‘cause I could see they were more comfortable speaking Spanish, so I know Spanish, and that’s how I communicated. I talked to one of the helpers, and she talked to me about my life and we shared stories. So it was really cool to hear about their background and share my story,” Geovani Cruz said about working with Cruz-Diez family members and staff. “I was so proud of it cause I worked on that. Seeing people react to it and sending me Instagram, that was pretty cool.”
High schooler Berenice Padilla also experienced a sense of pride in participating, despite the blistering heat of Labor Day. “It felt good to be part of something your city can see. Your family is proud you participated in something big. Just to hear my family say, ‘You were part of something big, and it’s going to stay with you for life!”
According to Schad, even longtime Cruz-Diez family friend L.A. Phil conductor Gustavo Dudamel participated. “He told me, ‘I’m very proud to walk over these crosswalks to work when I go into Disney Hall,” Schad says. “Hopefully a lot of people feel like that.” According to Patricia Restrepo at LADOT, the department has received no complaints or objections to the artwork.
Cruz-Diez has painted crosswalks in Miami, Houston, Mexico City, Marseilles and numerous other places around the world, each time making community involvement an essential part of the process. “I don’t make sculpture; I don’t make paintings. I make the infrastructure for an event where things happen continuously,” he has said. “When one discovers things it’s not for the intrinsic pleasure for one. It needs to be communicated and shared for others to enjoy. That has always been the role of the artist.”
His early work in advertising and later commercial work in Caracas in the 1940s paved the way for an assiduous investigation into the properties of color during the post-war period. Working and teaching between Caracas and Paris, he began to exhibit in the mid-1960s, drawing from a resurgent kinetic art movement spurred by people like Alexander Calder as well as Light and Space artists in Los Angeles. As such, his work is resolutely contemporary but in some ways rooted in the art of post-impressionist Georges Seurat whose pointillist process employed tiny points of color side by side so that, when viewed from the usual distance, they combined in the eye to form a new color. Likewise, Cruz-Diez chooses his palette carefully, fostering a trick of the eye and activating the crosswalk in ways that transcend the stop-and-go of everyday traffic.
“Colors emit certain emotional moods and temperatures as they react with each other,” observes Schad. “I actually like the crosswalk the best when the shadows are falling in the afternoon when the sun is still very bright and hot and the shadows are moving across the crosswalk and you can walk literally from shadow into the light. I love what it does there. It kind of glows.”
A broader look at Cruz-Diez’s work was available to a Southern California audience at the Palm Springs Art Museum where he figured prominently in their PST: LA/LA show, “Kinesthesia: Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954-1969.” The exhibition just ended its run January 15. Included are works like “Chromosaturation,” 1965, (customized to the current space). It consists of three interlinked white rooms illuminated from above by fixtures of thin fluorescent tubes in red, green and blue. As viewers move through the space, the colors combine, overwhelming the eyes and inducing new shades that bathe the floor and walls.
While the crosswalks at Second and Grand are not quite as immersive as “Chromosaturation,” Schad has experienced a palpable public response. “You see people out there taking photos and engaging with it. I’ve seen engagement photo shoots out there. I’ve seen wedding photos,” he says. “To me it’s sort of added to the atmosphere with these great buildings,” he indicates a singular string of architectural structures including Gehry’s concert hall, Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s the Broad, Arata Isozaki’s MOCA, Jose Rafael Moneo’s Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and the High School for the Visual and Performing Arts by Wolf Prix, three out of five designed by Pritzker winners.
“It’s different on the street,” says Raymond Herrera, who runs a hot dog stand outside the museum. “People are liking it. People say, ‘Oh, it’s beautiful.’ For me, it’s perfect. I like it.” And Herrera’s not alone. A little girl who’s overheard our conversation adds, “It makes me very happy. I like the colors. They’re fun. Nothing wrong with a happy walkway!”
Top Image: C. Carlos Cruz-Diez, Chromosaturation, 1965/2017 “Kinesthesia: Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954-1969,” Palm Springs Art Museum. | Lance Gerber