Jesús Rafael Soto
b. 1948, Acapulco, Mexico
A leading voice of the Kinetic movement, Jesús Rafael Soto studied and taught art in Venezuela heavily influenced by geometric abstraction. In 1950, intrigued by the works of Malevich and Mondrian, and with the encouragement of Venezuelan painter Alejandro Otero, Soto applied for and was awarded a scholarship to study in Paris. There he associated with Yaacov Agam, Jean Tinguely, Victor Vasarely and his Venezuelan friend Carlos Cruz-Diez.
Having started out as an illusionistic painter, in 1955 Soto participated in Le Mouvement at Galerie Denise René. He was immersed in projects in which he used almost no colour but, instead, explored the vibrations created by line and its dematerialisation, a great example of which is El Ovalo Escarlata (2002) featured at Puerta Roja’s 2018 exhibition Movement. In this kinetic construction with suspended metal rods in front of detailed patterns on wooden reliefs, the finely balanced, perpetually moving rods extend into the surrounding space, connecting to the environment and breaking free from the fixities of traditional painting. Soto also began exploring the idea of haptic art: making works to be touched by the viewer. In 1967 he produced his first Penetrables, works composed of metal rods and plastic strands hanging in space. He invited the viewer to enter the work and walk around inside it, to apprehend the ‘matter-energy’ of the world through ‘being’ inside the work, in the artist’s words: “Heretofore, the viewer was in the position of an external observer of reality. Today, the notion that there is mankind on one side and the world on the other has been superseded. We are not observers but constituent parts of a reality that we know to be teeming with living forces, many of them invisible. We exist in the world like fish in water: not detached from matter-energy; INSIDE, not IN FRONT OF; no longer viewers, but participants.”
Jesús Rafael Soto’s work is part of important public collections around the world including MoMA, Tate Modern, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Centre Pompidou. The artist was commissioned to create numerous monumental works, most notably in UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris, 1969 and in 1987 by Centre Pompidou where he installed Volume Virtuel at the entrance of the prestigious museum. In 1973 the Museo de Arte Moderno Jesús Soto opened in his birth city of Ciudad Bolívar. The museum houses some of the artist’s major works along with a sizeable collection of abstract, geometric and kinetic works he amassed throughout his life, including works by Jean Arp, Kazimir Malevich, and Man Ray. Soto’s work was also included in the Guggenheim’s 2014 large scale, historical exhibition, ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s. There have been multiple solo retrospectives of the artists’ work around the world both posthumous and during his lifetime. Most notably in 2014 Soto: The Houston Penetrable, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA and in 2013 Soto dans le collection du Museé national d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France.
Puerta Roja presented works by Jesús Rafael Soto in the exhibtion Movement (2018) in collaboration with Galerie Denise René.