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Art beneath your feet: Crosswalks downtown get a 'Couleur Additive'

The works of Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez are featured in museums around the world, from New York's Museum of Modern Art to the Tate Modern in London. 

Now, the streets of downtown Los Angeles are home to a bright design of crisscrossing colors showcasing the style of kinetic, optic art Cruz-Diez is famous for.

The crosswalks at Grand Ave and Second Street in Downtown L.A., in front of The Broad museum, got the colorful makeover over Labor Day weekend. 

"What it's supposed to feel like is colors changing and interlacing as you walk around these four crosswalks," said Ed Schad, associate curator at The Broad. "The temperature of the color changes, the atmosphere of the color changes. Really you have to come here to experience it."

The Broad commissioned the project as part of Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles/Latin America, an exploration of Latin American art in Southern California.

It's the latest project in a color concept Cruz-Diez started exploring in the 1950s. "Couleur Additive" takes advantage of the varying shades produced when different colors overlap – when red touches white and makes pink, for example. 

Students from Ramon C. Cortines High School assisted with the installation of the piece at night over Labor Day weekend.
Lauren Girard/The Broad
Students from Ramon C. Cortines High School assisted with the installation of the piece at night over Labor Day weekend.

"It was his earliest investigation in the mid '50s and here it is playing out on the street of Grand Avenue," said Schad. 

Cruz-Diez has been creating similar works of public art since the 1960s in France, and there are similar installations in Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico and even Houston and Miami. This is his first on the West Coast. 

“A work of art in the public space is magical in that people take possession of and become fond of it,” Cruz-Diez said in a press release.

Students from Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts, just a few blocks away from the museum, helped to install the exhibit when the intersection was shutdown at night. 

"One of the reasons we wanted to work with the high school students was to use this as an opportunity to introduce the kids to careers in the museum," said Broad head preparator Julia Latane.

Cruz-Diez, who lives in Paris, even greeted students via FaceTime as they installed the artwork at night. His staff says he's delighted with how it's turned out.

"It was really important to me to let the kids know that beyond the administrative positions and the visitor services positions, we also have jobs like this where you actually get to paint artwork and install works in the galleries."

The crosswalk is a hit with Bruce Rauhe, who lives nearby.

"I think it's gorgeous," he said. "Usually it's statues [on display], so I like to see the different format – something horizontal instead of vertical."

The exhibit will be in place until January.