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The fusion of art and industry seem to permeate Soto’s work. The materials he uses are patently industrial but the end result is art, sometimes static sometimes kinetic. Some of his art allows interaction as well. He has given us a window into seeing art all around us as part of a skyscraper or a manhole cover.
Jesus Rafeal Soto (June 5, 1923 – January 14, 2005) was a Venezuelan op and kinetic artist, a sculptor and a painter.
He was born in Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela. He began his artistic career as a boy painting cinema posters in his native city. He received his artistic training in Caracas. He directed the Escuela de Artes Plasticas in Maracaibo from 1947 to 1950, when he left for Paris and began associating withYaacov Agam, Jean Tinguely, Victor Vasarely, and other artists connected with the Salon des Realités Nouvelles and the Galerie Denise René.
Soto has created penetrables, interactive sculptures which consist of square arrays of thin, dangling tubes through which observers can walk. 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 – a large number of the exhibits are wired to the electricity supply so that they can move. The Venezuelan architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva designed the building for the museum and the Italian op artist Getulio Alviani was called to direct it.
Energy is one of the most striking elements of Soto’s work and his experiments with optical effects are representative of some of the most successful of the Op Art-Kinetic Art movements. Soto’s work, however, surpasses the mere exploitation of optical effects and he presents in his paintings a concentration of energy which attain a point where the paintings become a mirage, kinesthetically like a mental tension.
Soto’s use of the moire effect plays a prominent role in his early works of transition from the tradition of hard-edge abstraction founded by Modrian to the more fluid expression he presently uses. The influence of Modrian’s balancing of lines and composition can be found in Soto’s work, with Soto’s added touch of a personal search for an art which would be its own master, wholly independent of the natural world, an attitude reflective of Modrian’s.
Soto’s work with identical and multipliable elements was aimed at reducing the sign to total anonymity, in the effort to get away from subjective art. When the transition to kinetic art came Soto’s way in 1955 he began to make plexiglass superimpositions. Spirals traced upon perspex were superimposed in depth. The optical effect that resulted was in the relationship between the surfaces. Soto’s painting began to emerge and assume a sculptural dimension when he suspended wire and rods of metal in front of the background. This striping of the background seems to create the effect of attacking and partly absorbing the forms which are placed in front of it. Soto’s work established a concrete relationship with the viewers perception as disconcerting and fascinating as a mirage.
Jesús Rafael Soto died in 2005 in Paris, and is buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse.