Jesús Rafael Soto

Born 1923. Died 2005.
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Jesús Rafael Soto Biography

Regarded as one of the founding fathers of Kinetic art, Venezuelan-born artist Jesús Rafael Soto’s investigations of vibrational movement and mesmerizing optical effects utilize a disciplined formal lexicon to transcendent effect. Soto once observed, “Artistic creation is a force which should preferably be directed towards the exploration of space, of the universe, of the infinite realities which surround us, but of which we are hardly conscious.” In his ascetic geometric idiom, Soto’s paintings, sculptures and large-scale installations invite encounters with the sublime.

Soto was born in 1923 in Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela, and studied at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Aplicadas in Caracas. In 1950, Soto settled in Paris after receiving a government grant to travel to France. There, he associated with artists such as Victor Vasarely, Yaacov Agam, Jean Tinguely and others connected with the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles. His work explored serial geometric forms through a series of Repetition Paintings, and by the mid-50s, Soto was creating his first dynamic pieces using panels of Plexiglass. In 1955, he participated in the seminal Le Mouvement exhibition at Galerie Denise René, which helped to launch Kinetic Art. In 1968, Soto created the first of his life-sized Pénétrables installations, swaying fields of nylon thread that vibrate as the spectator approaches. The following year, UNESCO commissioned two murals by Soto for their buildings in Paris. Soto exhibited widely throughout his career, with major shows at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (1974) and Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (1979). He died in Paris in 2005 at the age of 81; he is buried in the historic Cimetière de Montparnasse.

Today, Soto’s work is housed in permanent collections around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tate Gallery, London; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; and the Museo de Arte Moderno Jesús Soto, which was opened in his honor in his hometown of Ciudad Bolívar in 1973.

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Artist Image: Time Life Pictures