Jesus Rafael Soto - Ecriture bleu central, 1999 (detail)

Jesus Rafael Soto /   Jesús Rafael Soto

Venezuela 1923 - 2005

Kinetic Art, Op Art

Jesus Rafael Soto
Jesús Rafael Soto
December 9, 2014
Ok, I know it's so damn corny to quote somebody just to describe yourself, let alone Confucius, but this quote says all about my relationship with Widewalls, so forgive me for doing this: Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Am I forgiven?

Jesús Rafael Soto was a Venezuelan op and kinetic artist, sculptor, and painter.

Soto was born in Ciudad Bolívar, an old colonial town on the edge of the virgin forest on the banks of the Orinoco in Venezuela. He was the eldest son of Emma Soto and Luis García Parra, a violin player, who were to have four other children. While working to make a contribution to the family’s upkeep, he went to primary school and, when he was about twelve, began to learn the guitar. It was also at this time that he began to copy reproductions of paintings he found in magazines, books and almanacs.

At the age of sixteen, he became a poster painter for the movie theaters in Ciudad Bolívar. Soto received a scholarship from the Guyana regional authority to study at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Artes Aplicadas in Caracas. He took classes in “pure art” and the “training course for instructors in art education and history”.

A circle of students of all age trained by Antonio Edmundo Monsanto, the school‘s liberal and well-respected director. They were Omar Carreño, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Narciso Debourg, Dora Hersen, Mateo Manaure, Luis Guevara, Pascual Navarro, Mercedes Pardo, led by the most advanced among them, Alejandro Otero (1921-1993). Most of the group’s members were to meet again in Paris in the late forties. Monsanto ensured that foreign magazines and books came into the school, as well as the many reproductions and engravings which were a major source of information for the students. Soto completed his studies and received his teacher’s diploma. He was appointed the director of the School of Art in the small town of Maracaibo, and also taught at the Baralt high school and at the local teacher training college. He came into contact with a group of surrealist students who were publishing in the local press and who encouraged him to take up a career as an artist.

Soto directed the Escuela de Artes Plasticas in Maracaibo from 1947 to 1950, when he left for Paris and began associating with Yaacov Agam, Jean Tinguely,Victor Vasarely, and other artists connected with the Salon des Realités Nouvelles and the Galerie Denise René. Soto’s breakthrough works of the 1950s and 1960s were “geometric abstract paintings, using a limited and carefully selected array of flat colors.” Caroni, for example, is a minimalist arrangement of static geometric forms in unmodulated silver, blue, and black inks on white paper.

Soto created the so-called Penetrables, interactive sculptures which consist of square arrays of thin, dangling tubes through which observers can walk. He made over 25 Penetrables in his career. It has been said of Soto’s art that it is inseparable from the viewer; it can only stand completed in the illusion perceived by the mind as a result of observing the piece.

In 1973, the Jesús Soto Museum of Modern Art opened in Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela with a collection of his work. The Venezuelan architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva designed the building for the museum and the Italian op artist Getulio Alviani was called to direct it. Unlike conventional art galleries, a large number of the exhibits are wired to the electricity supply so that they can move.

Jesús Rafael Soto died in 2005 in Paris, and is buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse.

Featured image: Jesús Rafael Soto – Ecriture bleu central, 1999 (detail). Paint on wood and metal, nylon. 81 9/10 × 119 7/10 in. 208 × 304 cm. Photo courtesy Perrotin

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group 
2014Soto: The Houston PenetrableMFAH - Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, TXSolo
2014Great Expectations #1Cortesi Contemporary, LuganoGroup
2014The Art of Zero: Heinz Mack, Otto Piene, Günther Uecker & FriendsNeuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NYGroup
2014ConfluenciasMACLA Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Latinoamericano, La PlataGroup
2014Radical Geometry - Modern Art of South America from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros CollectionRoyal Academy of Arts, LondonGroup
2014Turn Me On: European and Latin American Kinetic Art 1948-1979Christie’s Mayfair, LondonGroup
2014La línea continuaBlanton Museum of Art, Austin, TXGroup
2013Soto - Centre PompidouMusee National d´Art Moderne, ParisSolo
2013WhiteDickinson Roundell Inc., New York City, NYGroup
2013Impressions | AbstractionsSicardi Gallery, Houston, TXGroup
2013Que Du Papier IIL.A.C. - Lieu d'Art Contemporaine, SigeanGroup
2013Good Vibrations - Kunst und PhysikMuseum Pfalzgalerie Kaiserslautern, KaiserslauternGroup
2013VibrationsDes Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IAGroup
2013AnspruchGalerie Walzinger, SaarlouisGroup
2013White JanuaryEspace Meyer Zafra, ParisGroup
2012Jesús Rafael Soto - Soto UnearthedBosi Contemporary, New York City, NYSolo
2012Soto: Paris and Beyond 1950–1970Grey Art Gallery, NYU, New York City, NYSolo
2012Black-whiteDas Kleine Museum - Kultur auf der Peunt, WeissenstadtGroup
2012French ConnectionGaleria Raquel Arnaud, São PauloGroup
2012Ghosts in the MachineNew Museum of Contemporary Art, New York City, NYGroup
2012The Small Utopia. Ars MultiplicataFondazione Prada, VeniceGroup
2012Caribbean: Crossroads Of The WorldQueens Museum of Art (QMA), New York City, NYGroup
2012Caribbean: Crossroads of the WorldEl Museo del Barrio, New York City, NYGroup
2012Calder And Soto - Mobile ColorsDan Galeria, Sao PauloGroup
2012Sixties – Art et MobilierGalerie Nmarino, ParisGroup
2012Quadratic EquationsMasodfoku Egyenletek - Kepes Institut, EgerGroup
2012Fifty Years Of Latin American Art: Selections From The Neuberger Museum Of ArtNeuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NYGroup
2011Jesus Rafael Soto - Haunch of VenisonNew York, New York City, NYSolo
201150 artists, a collectionFondation Maeght, Saint-PaulGroup
201124th AnniversaryArt Nouveau, MaracaiboGroup
2011Not For SalePassage de Retz, ParisGroup
2011Rising with a SunKunstmuseum Liechtenstein, VaduzGroup
2010Soto, les harmonies combinatoiresGalerie Denise Rene - Rive Gauche, ParisSolo
2007Vision en movimientoFundacion PROA, Buenos AiresSolo
2005Jesus Rafael Soto - Vision en MovimientoFundacion PROA, Buenos AiresSolo
2005Jesus Rafael Soto – VenezuelaMolaa Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CASolo
2005Soto - A Construcao da ImaterialidadeMuseu Oscar Niemeyer, CuritibaSolo
2005Jesus Rafael Soto - Quadrat BottropJosef Albers Museum, BottropSolo
2005Soto: A Construção da ImaterialidadeInstituto Tomie Ohtake, Sao PauloSolo