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Dazzling underground light show illuminates hidden spaces at Buffalo Bayou Park

Dazzling light show illuminates hidden spaces at Buffalo Bayou Park

Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern: Spatial Chromointerference  2
Art comes to the Cistern once again as the Buffalo Bayou Partnership presents Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern: Spatial Chromointerference.   Photo by Tarra Gaines
Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern: Spatial Chromointerference
Light plays upon the large columns of the Cistern.  Photo by Tarra Gaines
Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern: Spatial Chromointerference/walkway
Visitors become immersed in the light.  Photo by Tarra Gaines
Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern: Spatial Chromointerference
Spatial Chromointerference transforms the underground.  Photo by Paul Hester
Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern: Spatial Chromointerference
The award-winning Franco-Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez is an internationally know innovator of Kinetic and Optical art. Atelier Cruz-Diez Paris Courtesy Photo
Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern: Spatial Chromointerference  2
Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern: Spatial Chromointerference
Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern: Spatial Chromointerference/walkway
Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern: Spatial Chromointerference
Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern: Spatial Chromointerference

After the rain comes the rainbows. And so almost a year after the art storm known as Rain: Magdalena Fernández at the Houston Cistern has moved on, Buffalo Bayou Partnership (BBP) now presents Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern: Spatial Chromointerference to alight the underground space once more, this time with spectrums of color.

One of the city’s most strange and wonderful hidden spaces, the Cistern, at the Water Works in Buffalo Bayou Park, was first constructed almost a century ago as an underground freshwater reservoir. After falling into disuse for decades, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership rediscovered and renovated the the 87,500-square-foot-space, filled with hundreds of 25-foot high concrete columns that appear to grow from the watery depths. The architecture on its own–looking both ancient and alien–has drawn tens of thousands of tourists and curious Houstonians to the park. But the Cistern has also become a kind of concrete, three dimensional canvas for brilliant contemporary art.

I recently got to experience this second art installation to inhabit and paint the Cistern with light. Walking through the artwork, I found it easy to understand why BBP invited the acclaimed Franco-Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez, an internationally known innovator of kinetic and optical art, to create an immersive piece for the space. Spatial Chromointerference both transforms and just fits the environment.

Spatial Chromointerference completely dematerializes this vast space, continuously moving with new chromatic combinations,” described Judy Nyquist, the co-chair of the BBP Public Art Committee, at a recent media preview. “The environment moves, new colors appear and people inside disappear and reappear. You have to be inside, see what happens and enjoy.”

Because columns of colored light are projected onto the interior columns but also onto some of the walkway walls that ring the Cistern, visitors don’t just view Chromointerference from afar; instead, they move within in the pillars and strands of light, becoming actors within the artwork. Visitors are encouraged to wear white to become moving bodies to catch the light. If you’re not suitably attired, Cistern docents will offer the use of a fashionable lab coat. (No word yet if Buffalo Bayou Partnership will offer special ghost costume tours for Halloween.) 

I found experiencing Chromointerference something like exploring the interior of a prism, or maybe a diamond, with lines and planes of color surrounding me while ever-moving and changing.

This month begins something of a summer of  Cruz-Diez, who has become a favorite of Houston contemporary art-lovers. Later in the season, the University of Houston’s Cruz-Diez commission, Double Physichromie, considered by UH as a centerpiece of its public art collection, will be relocated to a central green space near the College of Technology and Graduate College of Social Work buildings, so the UH community and public can better access the art.

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Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern: Spatial Chromointerference will be on view May 12, 2018 through January 13, 2019. Timed tickets can be purchased online. Admission is free on Thursdays but reservations are still required.