This summer, the London gallery space of Phillips is playing host to a glorious ocular ambush by Franco-Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez, one of the founding fathers of the op art movement. A union of art, science and colour phenomena, ‘Luminous Reality’ features previously unseen work, alongside classics, presented as the first show in the British auction house’s new exhibition platform. It includes works from the iconic Physichromies series, notably the motorised Chromointerference Mecanique – whose sister work is housed in Tate Modern – alongside another iteration of his intoxicating Chromointerferent Environment, a four-dimensional gallery-scale chamber saturated with moving projections.

The kineticist encourages active participation in his work, whereby the spectator is both author and actor simultaneously. ‘It has taken me a long time to change people’s perceptive habits,’ Cruz-Diez tells Wallpaper*, having devoted much of his time to rigorously researching the very individual experience of processing colour. At 94 years old, and with seven decades of kinetic art production under his belt, the Phillips catalogue exemplifies the numerous material and conceptual shifts since his emergence in the 1940s.

Represented in international galleries and museums including the MoMA and Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Cruz-Diez is also renowned for his interventions in urban spaces, including zesty takeovers of pedestrian crossings in Mexico City, Houston and Miami Beach. The artist has been dubbed a pioneer of perception, so much so that ‘kinetic art is to Venezuela what muralism is to Mexico’.

Color aditivo permutable, 1982, by Carlos Cruz-Diez, acrylic on aluminium

Dubbed the ‘master of colour’, his work offers moments for optical escapism. In the early 1950s, Cruz-Diez’s work began to strike a chord with the Venezuelan political elite offering respite from military unrest through its lack of political agenda. In modern times, the artist references society’s aggressive ‘hyperbaroque’ condition in which there are few moments of calm or visual repose, his work proposes chromatic immersion as an antidote.

Cruz-Diez’s methods oppose traditional painting whereby colour is applied once and remains static. Instead, tight stripes of stripped cardboard, aluminium and Plexiglass separate colours vertically to create the moiré effect, three-dimensional illusionary work sensitive to the slightest motion. The artist refers to these as ‘light traps’, where the surface evolves and transforms before the gripped observer.

In recent years, a newfound taste for technology has allowed Cruz-Diez to visualise his creations through simulation, where previously he could only imagine the outcome. ‘Just like a musician with a music sheet, I would spend many days making a piece and in the end if it did not satisfy me I had to destroy it,’ he reflects.

For decades Cruz-Diez’s studio space was former butcher’s shop on Rue Pierre Sémard, Paris, but for the last two years, he’s been operating from a larger workshop down the road, built by his children and reinforced by a team of artists and craftsmen who assist with the execution of his work.

Cruz-Diez shows no signs of applying the brakes: ‘No artist ever thinks that their practice is over. One continues to deepen their discourse to make it more and more dense and expressive.’ §