As one of the most intriguing artistic minds of his day, Jésus Rafael Soto’s quest for aesthetic representation of the immaterial and over-arching rejection of the figurative and traditional geometric form resulted in not only a career marked with prolificacy, ingenuity and success, but also the presentation of a wholly fresh and interactive experience for the viewer of his kinetic works. Born in Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela in 1923 and trained at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Artes Aplicadas in Caracas, Soto found his formative inspiration in the 1950’s Parisian avant-garde, moving to Paris and connecting with Jean Tinguely, Victor Vasarely, Yaacov Agam and many others associated with the Salon des Realités and the Galerie Denise René. Soto would also claim optical artists Kazimir Malevich, Yves Klein and Piet Mondrian as vital to his creative process due to their utter lack of regard for the “object” in favor of an exploration and materialization of the ephemeral, such as Malevich’s White Square on White Background, which as Soto described in 1969, was “light on light…with no need for the objects we normally use to capture it.
Soto rebelled against the constraints of both two- and three-dimensionality as well as color theory and managed to cultivate his own stylistic modus operandi, involving the viewer, both visually and physically, through a mix of media, displacement of pictorial planes, scale, and color. Seemingly obsessed with the depiction of relationships between and movement of objects, rather than the objects themselves, Soto described in the 1965 Signals News Bulletin his interest in depicting “the existence of relationships in every lucid moment of our behavior…the laws of chance, becoming aware of realities we had not previously thought about.” He yearned to materialize the nonphysical, moving realities of our world, such as passing time and shifting space. Although often associated with his large-scale three-dimensional penetrables, consisting of groups of thin, dangling tubes through which observes can pass, as well as his “vibrations,” consisting of colored backgrounds interacting with moving metal wires and colored lines, Soto identified himself as a painter, as, in his own words, “the feeling of space-time has always been a major concern of the painter more than the sculptor…[and] painting has always been closer to shifting and metamorphosis.”
Works by Jésus Rafael Soto are included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tate Gallery, London; Stadelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, Belgium; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina; the Jésus Rafael Soto Museum of Modern Art, Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela; Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, Venezuela; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France; and Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan.