As one of the most intriguing artistic minds, Jesús Rafael Soto’s quest for aesthetic representation of the immaterial and rejection of the figurative, as well as the traditional geometric form, resulted in a fresh and interactive experience for viewers. For the first time in art history Jesús Soto invited viewers to step into works of art with his penetrables.
Soto was born in Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela in 1923. He was trained at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Artes Aplicadas in Caracas. Soto found his inspiration in the 1950’s Parisian avant-garde, which was heavily influenced by constructivist art. He moved to Paris and connected with Jean Tinguely, Victor Vasarely, Yaacov Agam, and many others associated with the Salon des Realités and the Galerie Denise Renée. Soto would also claim optical artists Kazimir Malevich, Yves Klein and Piet Mondrian as foundational pillars of his creative and conceptual process, especially becuase of their utter lack of attention to the “object” in favor of an exploration and materialization of the ephemeral. This idea is marked in Malevich’s infamous work, 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 but still managed to cultivate his own stylistic modus operandi, which involved the viewer. This attention to the viewer, in order to create an experience, is what associated Soto to the kinetic art movement. Through mixed media, the displacement of pictorial planes, scale, and colors his works revealed subtle relationships between movement of color and objects. Soto described in 1965 in 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.”
Soto learned 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 penetrable, consisting of groups of thin, dangling tubes through which observers are able to pass, as well as his “vibrations,” consisting of colored backgrounds interacting with moving metal wires and colored lines, Soto identified himself as a painter. 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.”