Double écriture noir et vert
is one of the earliest and most complex examples from Jesús Rafael Soto’s heralded Écriture
series to appear at auction. Executed in 1966, Double écriture
represents the most definitive and triumphant example of Soto’s fully-formed kinetic vocabulary; for him, the Écriture
series was the apex of expressive perfection. Exhibited by the Guggenheim Museum, New York in 1974—Soto’s first major museum retrospective organized in the United States— Double écriture
solidified Soto as the father of Kineticism. Jean Clay not only placed him on the cover of ROBHO
, he proclaimed him as the artist who magnificently put “painting into extinction” (Susan Green, et. al, Kinesthesia: Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954-1969
, 2017, p. 123). Having surpassed the confines of Neo-Plasticism, which Soto conceded as the only valid point of inception for significant and historical painting, he reaches a personal and original language with Double écriture noir et vert
, one influenced by music’s relational structure, its codification of sound and temporality to create a phenomena of illusion.
Soto began as a painter and out of painting developed kinetic relief constructions which gradually grew into autonomous environments. As a student at the revered Escuela de Artes Plásticas in Caracas, his first serious creative revelation came from a Cubist still-life by Georges Braque, from which he began absorbing the lessons of geometric simplification. Upon his arrival in Paris in 1950 at the age of 27, he next encountered the works of Kazimir Malevich (White on White
, 1918) and Piet Mondrian (Broadway Boogie Woogie
, 1942-43). Although he found inspiration in them, Soto identified unresolved problems in these two paintings. This question would become the central focus and inspiration of his entire artistic production: what is an object’s position in time and space? Soto’s ultimate solution was and still is the brilliant and essential coup of Kinetic art. Deftly described by his biographer and lauded art historian, Alfredo Boulton: “In Soto’s works, the visual and tangible elements of Mondrian’s paintings were physically materialized by means of structural elements which made space visible, tangible, mobile, active, and at the same time, immaterial or incorporeal. Soto had to construct an artistic vocabulary which permitted him to articulate that which others had not envisioned, to enter into the life of space itself by means of new expressive materials. Departing from the mechanical mobility of Moholy-Nagy, who rotated his form by electrical means, from Calder, who discovered how a slight breeze could be converted into art and how a puff of air could become color, harmony and delight, Soto opened up new territories which none had thought to explore.” (Alfredo Boulton, Soto, Space in Art
, Milan, 1985, pp. 15-6)
More important, Soto would employ the same mechanisms as the great masters of Western Baroque musical composition, in which each melodic and harmonic line is painstakingly written to form a rational and perfect Gesamtkunstwerk, a complete work of art. In this series, the influence of Johannes Sebastian Bach is clearly evidenced in Soto’s disciplined structure of synchronized repetition, which reveals a severe precision that borders the illusion of impulsion and improvisation.
The Écritures (Writings) were the definitive turning point for Soto. It is in these works where “he invents an instrumental methodology, a vocabulary which served to make his message more understandable[…] Consisting of a separation of spaces between the several planes, the distance which separated them, and ultimately, the distance which separated the object from the viewer […] The work captured both the viewer and his imagination, because as he moved about, his movement caused him to be incorporated into the movement of the work.” (ibid, p. 22). In Double écriture noir et vert , a corpus of wires and seemingly levitating metal elements form graphic structures of elegant lineal expression, letters floating in space that appear and recede in an intimate, coded message from the artist to the viewer. Here, Soto draws from his origins as a painter, here specifically returning to the curved lines of his abstract canvases from 1950-1951 while also evoking solemn references to the musically derived Composition paintings of Wassily Kandinsky, where groupings of colors and geometric shapes form a visual digest of melodic chords. On the eve of his November 1974 Guggenheim retrospective, Soto best described his Écritures, “for me, they are a way of drawing in space […] had I been a painter in the 18th Century, it’s perfectly possible that instinctively, my hand would have drawn the same lines, but even with this freedom, I still continue to retain a structure to control the elements within…” (Claude-Luis Renard, “Excerpts from an Interview with Soto, Paris, 1974” in Soto: A Retrospective Exhibition, New York, 1974, p. 17)