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
|2014||Soto: The Houston Penetrable||MFAH - Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, TX||Solo|
|2014||Great Expectations #1||Cortesi Contemporary, Lugano||Group|
|2014||The Art of Zero: Heinz Mack, Otto Piene, Günther Uecker & Friends||Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY||Group|
|2014||Confluencias||MACLA Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Latinoamericano, La Plata||Group|
|2014||Radical Geometry - Modern Art of South America from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection||Royal Academy of Arts, London||Group|
|2014||Turn Me On: European and Latin American Kinetic Art 1948-1979||Christie’s Mayfair, London||Group|
|2014||La línea continua||Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX||Group|
|2013||Soto - Centre Pompidou||Musee National d´Art Moderne, Paris||Solo|
|2013||White||Dickinson Roundell Inc., New York City, NY||Group|
|2013||Impressions | Abstractions||Sicardi Gallery, Houston, TX||Group|
|2013||Que Du Papier II||L.A.C. - Lieu d'Art Contemporaine, Sigean||Group|
|2013||Good Vibrations - Kunst und Physik||Museum Pfalzgalerie Kaiserslautern, Kaiserslautern||Group|
|2013||Vibrations||Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA||Group|
|2013||Anspruch||Galerie Walzinger, Saarlouis||Group|
|2013||White January||Espace Meyer Zafra, Paris||Group|
|2012||Jesús Rafael Soto - Soto Unearthed||Bosi Contemporary, New York City, NY||Solo|
|2012||Soto: Paris and Beyond 1950–1970||Grey Art Gallery, NYU, New York City, NY||Solo|
|2012||Black-white||Das Kleine Museum - Kultur auf der Peunt, Weissenstadt||Group|
|2012||French Connection||Galeria Raquel Arnaud, São Paulo||Group|
|2012||Ghosts in the Machine||New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York City, NY||Group|
|2012||The Small Utopia. Ars Multiplicata||Fondazione Prada, Venice||Group|
|2012||Caribbean: Crossroads Of The World||Queens Museum of Art (QMA), New York City, NY||Group|
|2012||Caribbean: Crossroads of the World||El Museo del Barrio, New York City, NY||Group|
|2012||Calder And Soto - Mobile Colors||Dan Galeria, Sao Paulo||Group|
|2012||Sixties – Art et Mobilier||Galerie Nmarino, Paris||Group|
|2012||Quadratic Equations||Masodfoku Egyenletek - Kepes Institut, Eger||Group|
|2012||Fifty Years Of Latin American Art: Selections From The Neuberger Museum Of Art||Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY||Group|
|2011||Jesus Rafael Soto - Haunch of Venison||New York, New York City, NY||Solo|
|2011||50 artists, a collection||Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul||Group|
|2011||24th Anniversary||Art Nouveau, Maracaibo||Group|
|2011||Not For Sale||Passage de Retz, Paris||Group|
|2011||Rising with a Sun||Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, Vaduz||Group|
|2010||Soto, les harmonies combinatoires||Galerie Denise Rene - Rive Gauche, Paris||Solo|
|2007||Vision en movimiento||Fundacion PROA, Buenos Aires||Solo|
|2005||Jesus Rafael Soto - Vision en Movimiento||Fundacion PROA, Buenos Aires||Solo|
|2005||Jesus Rafael Soto – Venezuela||Molaa Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA||Solo|
|2005||Soto - A Construcao da Imaterialidade||Museu Oscar Niemeyer, Curitiba||Solo|
|2005||Jesus Rafael Soto - Quadrat Bottrop||Josef Albers Museum, Bottrop||Solo|
|2005||Soto: A Construção da Imaterialidade||Instituto Tomie Ohtake, Sao Paulo||Solo|