Jesús Rafael Soto

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Jesús Rafael Soto
Jesús Rafael Soto (artist).jpg
Born (1923-06-05)June 5, 1923
Ciudad Bolívar
Died January 14, 2005(2005-01-14) (aged 81)
Nationality Venezuelan
Education Escuela de Artes Plasticas y Aplicadas
Notable work Penetrables
Movement Kinetic and Op Art

Jesús Rafael Soto (June 5, 1923 – January 14, 2005) was a Venezuelan op and kinetic artist, a sculptor and a painter.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Jesús Rafael Soto was born in Ciudad Bolívar in Venezuela. The eldest of four children born to Emma Soto and Luis Garcia Parra, a violin player. From a very young age, Soto wanted to help support his family anyway he could, but art was the most interesting to him. He picked up the guitar and also began recreating famous pieces of art that he found in various books, magazines and almanacs. At 16, Soto started his serious artistic career when he began to create and paint posters for the cinemas in Ciudad Bolivar. After he painted posters, he received a scholarship [3]to study artistic training at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Artes Aplicadas in Caracas from 1942 to 1947.[4] Once there, he took classes in "pure art" and the "training course for instructors in art education history." [3] One of Soto's professors taught many other Venezuelan artists. Antonio Edmundo Monsanto, the director of the school also taught people such as Omar Carreño, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Narsico Deboug, Dora Hersen, Mateo Manaure, Luis Guevara, Pascal Navarro, Mercedes, Pardo and Alejandro Otero. Mansanto was instrumental to many of these artists careers because he often brought in foreign books and magazines as well as many reproductions which served as a source of inspiration and information to his students.[3]


After Soto had graduated form Escuela de Artes Platicas y Artes Aplicadas, receiving a teaching degree, he was then hired to be the director of the Escuela de Bellas Artes de Maracaibo from 1947 to 1950. When he was teaching there, he received a government grant to travel to France, and settled in Paris.[5] When Soto arrived in Europe in 1951, Geometric Abstraction was not very popular. He proposed a new sort of movement that would add to three dimensional art. By 1954, he began associating with Yaacov Agam, Jean Tinguely, Victor Vasarely, and other artists connected with the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles and the Galerie Denise René. [3]


Soto, along with some other artists, would began to make art that was more than just pictures.[5] In examples such as, cubes suggerés (1955) Soto was innovative and created a new means for geometric works. Essential for these "optical illusions" was Plexiglas. Soto did not feel constricted by the size of his works. His works ranged from the smaller scale such as Estructuras cinéticas de elementos geométricos (1955) all the way to the human scale of Cube à espace ambigu (1969). [5] During his "baroque" period, Soto expressed his ideas and visions in haptics, creating works like Puntos de goma (Rubber dots, 1961) and Borroco nergro (Baroque in black, 1961.) [5] During this time, Soto also worked on his Penetrables which were metal and plastic works that the spectator could interact with by walking through them.[5] Soto participated in Le Movement in 1955 which is one of the major exhibitions that helped launch his career in Kinetic Art. For years after his time in Paris, Soto's art changed between organic and geometric forms. His work is often connected to Venezuelan Op art because of the geometric shapes of his works correlate to works late in the movement. [6] Soto's breakthrough works of the 1950s and 1960s were these abstracts painting with geometric that used a carefully selected color pallet. "Caroni, for example, arranges very simplistically, geometric shapes such as square and lines in gray, white, blue and black. [3]


'Soto would set the bases for an art that transcended the conventional parameters of painting and sculpture.' [5] Kinetic pieces such as Trapecio (trapezoid, 1957) and Estructura cinetica (Kinetic Structure, 1956) consist of panels of plexiglass that create subtle changes in the piece as the viewer moves around the work. By inviting the spectator participate in the work, instead of merely looking from a distance, Soto more deeply engages the audience, and makes the experience more intriguing and stimulating. [5] Soto had a partner in this movement. On the other hand, his counterpart Carlos Cruz-Diez focused more on the way colours are perceived by the eye. [5] One of his series called Fisicromiás (Physiochrimies) shows how coloured light is perceived and displaced through one's eyes. [7] Another artist that participated in this style was Alejandro Otero. His series Colortioms (Rhythmicolors) combine the same concepts of the perception of colour in the eye and participators' movement with the work, but gave greater attention to how the colours are controlled with vertical lines.[5]

In 1965, Soto began to experiment with kinetic and linear construction while using new materials of different varieties such as nylon, perspex, steel and industrial paint[6]. Soto was very interested in the concept of perception, and this was demonstrated through some of his works which require interaction with the viewer. '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.'[3] A case in point is Soto's "Penetrables", sculptures that viewers can walk through. Soto made over 25 Penetrables in his career.[3]

The Soto sphere in Caracas
Soto early 1970s Photo: Lothar Wolleh

Jesús Rafael Soto died in 2005 in Paris, and is buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse.[6]


Like many other Venezuelan artists from this time, Jesus Rafael Soto and Carlos Cruz-Diez considered their works a response to what they felt the problems were in art of their time. They wanted to express a more universal process of art. Because of this, their works are contributions that continue to enrich the art world. [5] Their willingness to contribute and put themselves in a more universal approach to art, was a direct rebuttal to the traditional views of art in Latin America. [5] With Venezuela, this was a way for them to add what they felt was missing in the art of Latin America. Painting, in history was an act of responding to the situation at hand in the mind of Soto and Cruz-Diez. [5] "Everything else was academic, anachronistic, or as Alejandro Otero said, "the work of a man hiding behind time." [5]


- From 1970 until the early 1990s, Soto's works appeared in places such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, as well as the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.[8]

- In 2001, he participated in the SITE Santa Fe biennial.[9] before his death some important mayor exhibitions has been realized, highlighting as the most important, the itinerant exhibition "Visión en Movimiento" displayed at Rufino Tamayo Museum, Mexico DF, Mexico (Nov. 10, 2005 - Apr. 30, 2006), Fundación Proa, Buenos Aires, Argentina (Jun. 13 - Sep. 17, 2006) and "Visione in Movimento" at Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo (GAMeC), Bergamo, Italy (Oct. 13, 2006 - Feb. 25, 2007).[9]

- From November 20, 2004 to August 5, 2015 Soto had nine exhibits at the MoMA [10]

- Signals Gallery, London (1965)

- Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1971)

- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1974)

- Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1979). For each of these exhibitions, Soto used swaying nylon thread or plastic string to turn the gallery space into an all-encompassing, kinetic installation, in which the experience of the spectator within the constructed environment was central to the work’s meaning. Soto’s sculptures and environments often play with the juxtaposition of solid and void, deliberately unsettling the act of viewing by blurring the distinction between reality and illusion. [11]


In 1973, the Jesús Soto Museum of Modern Art opened in Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela with a collection of his work. A Venezuelan architect named Carlos Raúl Villanueva designed the building for the museum and the Italian op artist Getulio Alviani was called to run it. Something that is different about this gallerie is that, a large number of the exhibits are wired to the electricity supply so that they can move.[12]

Works by Jésus Rafael Soto are included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin; Tate Gallery, London; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam; Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires; Allentown Art Museum, Pennsylvania, Fundación D.O.P., Caracas, Madrid & Paris; Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris;Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Musei Vaticani, Vatican, Italy.[13]

Some of Soto's work adorns Caracas' main arts centre, the Teresa Carreño Cultural Complex.[14]

Selected works[edit]


  • Soto Classical and Modern, catalogue published to coincide with the exhibition, with essay by Ninoska Huerta, Fundacion Corp Group Centro Cultural (2000), Caracas, Venezuela, ISBN 978-980-6334-42-7
  • Soto: A Retrospective Exhibition, catalogue published to coincide with the exhibition; with essays by Claude-Louis Renard, Jesús Soto and Thomas M. Messer. Accompanying text in English, French and Spanish, Published by: The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum (1974), New York, U.S.A. ASIN: B0006CE7Y2 - EAN: BWB20407488
  • Soto (Serie Mains et merveilles), with essay by Gerard-Georges Lemaire. Published by Editions La Difference (1997), Paris, France. ISBN 978-2729111137
  • Jesús Soto in Conversation with Ariel Jiménez, Texts by Ariel Jiménez and Jesús R. Soto. Published by Fundación Cisneros/Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros; Bilingual edition. ISBN 978-0982354469
  • Soto, Texts by Marcel Joray and Jesús Rafael Soto. Translated from French edition by Alison L'Eplattenier-Clapham. Publisher: Éditions du Griffon; Prima edizione (First Edition) edition (1984). ASIN: B0018PFZBK
  • Soto A Gran Escala, Texts by Daniel Abadie, Arnaud Pierre, Hannia Gómez and Agnès Nordmann, Published by MACCSI. ISBN 980-272-232-4
  • Jesús Rafael Soto. "Visión en Movimiento" (Bilingual Edition), Texts by Tatiana Cuevas, Paola Santoscoy and Hans Ulrich Obrist. ISBN 987-21336-3-8
  • Jesus Rafael Soto: "Visione in Movimento" (Bilingual Edition), Texts by Tatiana Cuevas and Paola Santoscoy. Publisher: Silvana (Italy) & Trans-Atlantic Publications, Inc. (U.S.A.); Bilingual edition (2007) ISBN 978-8836607907
  • Soto: Paris and Beyond, 1950-1970, Exhibition catalog at Grey Art Gallery, New York University (2012), Texts by Estrellita Brodsky and Sarah Rich, Published by Grey Art Gallery, New York University ISBN 978-0934349161
  • Jesus Soto, Texts Alfredo Boulton, Published by Editorial Armitano (1973) [16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Edelist, Sydney (June 22, 2011). "Photos: Kinetic Art Of Jesus Rafael Soto". Huffington Post. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Bibliography of Jesus Rafael Soto". 2017-11-15. 
  4. ^ Jesus Rafael Soto Marlborough Fine Art.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Olea, Hector. Inverted Utopias. Yale University Press. p. 572. 
  6. ^ a b c "Jesus Rafael Soto". 2017-11-16. 
  7. ^ "Physicromie". Carlos Cruz-Diez. 2017-12-15. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b Michael Rush (July 8, 2001), In Santa Fe, Searching for the Meaning of Beauty New York Times.
  10. ^ "Jesus Rafael Soto". Museum of Modern Art. 2017-12-15. 
  11. ^ "Collection Online". Guggenheim. 2017-12-03. Archived from the original on 2017-12-03. 
  12. ^ "Jesus Rafael Soto". Art Discover. 
  13. ^ Jesus Rafael Soto Marlborough Fine Art.
  14. ^ Walker, Laurence (2017-12-15). "Jesus Soto Museum of Modern Art". 
  15. ^ "Vibration". Guggenheim. 2017-12-03. 
  16. ^ Soto, Jesus. Jesús Soto. Editorial Armitano. Retrieved 26 December 2012. 

External links[edit]