As one of the most intriguing South American artists of the post-war period, Jesús Rafael Soto was a world renowned master of kinetic art and optical art. He was active in a wide variety of artistic movements; not only a central member of Zero Art Group, alongside Lucio Fontana and Enrico Castellani, he was also an important Western representative of Movimento Punto. At this evening sale, Sotheby's is delighted to offer Soto's classic masterpiece Negro y blanco (Lot 1010) alongside the works of Hsiao Chin and other key members of Movimento Punto; thereby celebrating the artists from East and West alike, who were engaging in cultural exchange and dialogue during the post-war period.
In Negro y blanco, Soto has used his typical contrasting shades – white and black. The upper portion of the work is composed of two compact concentric squares. The back plate of the lower portion of the piece is composed of rigid straight lines, and amidst this mass of interwoven black and white there is not a single line out of place. In contrast with the overlapping nylon threads which hang across the front of the piece, the crooked, free iron wires create a sense of harmonious imbalance, naturally dropping to spread apart on both sides. The overall result is a perfect yet conflicting three-dimensional composition. Viewed from different angles and perspectives, the upper portion of the piece produces the illusion of two and three-dimensionality, generating a subsequent feeling of slight unease. As for the lower portion, when the viewer is moving past the front of the piece, the fine lines create conflicting optical images; the illusion of space further intensifies the visual movement, allowing each viewer to personally experience the space that Soto has created. Soto was also an important Western representative of Movimento Punto, and his kinetic art was more than mere ocular illusion; what he actually desired to share with us is the abstract sentiment that is released after a change in the concrete elements of a piece. Though the installation appears simple, the overall picture is expanded by a series of visually interlacing points, amassing into complexly interwoven lines, and finally returning to the forefront. Not only does the work induce a sense of visual fantasy, it also pushes viewers towards philosophical thought concerning infinity and limitlessness, like the notion of creation ex nihilo.
Although Western and Eastern cultures are by no means synonymous, Europe and China do both have longstanding cultural histories, and the two share similarity and difference alike. As such, Movimento Punto, so named because of its focus on the punto or 'point,' was able to attract artists from each respective culture. The ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras' phrase "all things are numbers" is particularly useful when examining Soto's own creativity – numbers are indeed the original points of the entire universe. For instance, points or punto can be likened to the single variable; lines are equivalent to a double variable; sides represent a triple variable; and shapes are equivalent to a quadruple variable. In other words, numbers give rise to points; points give rise to lines; lines give rise to sides, and sides give rise to shapes; and shapes give way to the feelings that constitute all forms - Soto's art is in fact a complete realization of this philosophy. Coincidentally, this aspect of his work also shares some sentiment with Eastern philosophy; as Laozi said "The Dao produced one; one produced two; two produced three; and three produced all things."
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