“I’m not from the past, I’m from today,” he told the Associated Press in 2008. Defining himself as an “explorer,” he said he investigated the “the ambiguity of color,” sometimes creating art with transparent strips of material that filtered light and showed different color combinations to viewers moving around his artwork.
Mr. Cruz-Diez studied art in Caracas and, after graduating, worked as an artistic director for the U.S. advertising agency then known as McCann Erickson, and as an illustrator for Venezuela’s El Nacional newspaper.
He founded a visual arts school in Caracas and moved to Paris in 1959 to pursue art. He made his home in France, teaching and becoming a French citizen in 2008.
“Art always inspired me. But in my youth, and I think this happens to a lot of Latin Americans, one feels marginalized, the world of art was always distant for us,” he told the AP in 2009.
Latin America was in a state of “cultural dependence” early in his career, he said. “We went to Europe to look for information. Impressionism and other movements reached us 30 or 40 years late.”
Carlos Eduardo Cruz-Diez was born in Caracas on Aug. 17, 1923, and his work was incorporated into the city as it expanded with the help of Venezuela’s booming oil industry, starting in the 1970s. His stunning, chromatic work on the floor of the international airport was unveiled at a time when the building was an icon of modernity.
Today, Venezuela’s economic problems have forced millions to leave the country. Some migrants take photos of themselves at the airport artwork as a parting memory of their homeland.
In 2015, Mr. Cruz-Diez completed his biggest North American commission, for the law firm Covington & Burling, according to Houston-based Sicardi Gallery, which was involved in the project. It was installed in downtown Washington.
“Cruz-Diez’s ‘Transchromie’ spans two corner glass walls, and is visible from inside and outside the building. As light enters the building, the installation casts vibrant shadows of color on the floor and walls of the interior,” Sicardi says on its website.
“I always thought art shouldn’t be isolated from society, art is a way of communication. It shouldn’t be closed within four walls,” Mr. Cruz-Diez told the AP. “So I always liked to get in the street, do it in the best way, be sincere and offer it to everyone.”