At the dawn of the 1980s, Jesús Rafael Soto had reached a newfound peak in his career; already well-established within the European avant-garde, the coming decade would see him exhibit in Asia for the first time, open major retrospectives in the United States and realize monumental public commissions for the Centre d’art modern Georges Pompidou in Paris and for several major banks in Caracas. This period also marks a critical shift in Soto’s focus - from an exhaustive investigation of the capacity of lines to dematerialize space in earlier series like his Vibraciones
to a sharp fixation on color in his Ambivalencias
, to which Relación horizontal-vertical
belongs. Throughout his lifetime he continued to revisit artistic problems he felt had been left unresolved, approaching this constant revision with a sense of historical duty: “I conceive art as a set of questions that must be solved by the artist, because they are problems posed by the age he lives in and not because he feels like doing it. The history of art takes you down that path, and you become a creator insofar as you find solutions to these questions…For me, there are no stages that are definitively concluded, and I feel completely free to take them up again when I feel the need” (Ariel Jiménez & Jesús Rafael Soto, Jesús Soto in Conversation with Ariel Jiménez
, New York, 2012, pp. 94-95).
Soto traced the root of his exploration in color-light-space dynamics to the work of the Fauves and Russian constructivists, who “tried to use color independently of form and extra-pictorial content - [in their work] the power and ambiguity of color become manifest, and we witness its capacity to generate the illusion of a space that is optically variable, as some dots seem to advance while others seem to recede” (ibid.). For Soto, the establishment of optical instability in two dimensions opened the door to spatial instability in three. In Relación horizontal-vertical, vibrant squares dance before and around the viewer, darting forward and back as one walks from side to side – lilac giving way to marigold, crimson to silver. The oscillating stripes of the background enhance the vibrational effect as these fields of pure color seem to float outward into our space. Vivid, dizzying and evanescent, Relación horizontal-vertical is a striking example of Soto’s masterful manipulation of space and color.