Shortly after his methodical “progressions” and his multi planar, neatly composed optic and kinetic experiments with Plexiglas, pure geometry and plain color, Soto started experimenting with informal materials and surfaces.
It is an interesting exercise to look at this seminal work of the so called baroque period, The Hacksaw, 1960, formerly in the prestigious collection of industrialist Hans Neumann in Caracas with the quoted Soto´s phrase in mind: the thin hacksaw, an industrial instrument, is attached with screws and bolts several inches in front of the striped informal back. The background looks like a miniature lava deposit whose flow has been contained by a roughly bent squared metal wire attached to the back with seven fine metal staples much in the manner of the drawn inner frame of his later composition A Souvenir to my friend Yves [Klein], 1961, also exhibited at the Grey Gallery. In front of such an infertile surface the eye focuses immediately on about six dozen parallel white lines. The rigorous, hence rational character of the lines is broken by multiple peaks and valleys which make the tortured landscape more visible. The visual vibration created by the saw against the backdrop of lines confirms the success of Soto’s predicament: the pure vibration has disintegrated a vertical portion of the visual field. The phenomenon is further enhanced by the interruptions introduced by the triangular saw tooth endings.
Brodsky reminds us how close Soto was in those years to the ideas of the Nouveaux Réalistes, in particular to Yves Klein: “Soto embraced the ideas of Klein and others who were attempting to connect with a new public through an art of “daily life” (3). By positioning an object of daily life, moreover a tool with a cutting function against a backdrop of what could be perceived essentially as a dirty corner of an abandoned steel mill, Soto performed a double trick: he turned the saw into a magic stick and he made disappear part of the [industrial] archeological site intuited by the author. It is not a coincidence that in France, where he resided, this particular quality of his work came to be known as Soto-Magie.
(1) Jesús Soto in conversation with Ariel Jiménez, Colección Cisneros Ed. 2012, p. 169
(2,3) Brodsky, Estrellita, Soto , Paris and Beyond 1950-1970, Grey Art Gallery, NYU, 2012, p. 31
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