Jesus Soto, Composición dinámica (Dynamic Composition), 1950
Oil on canvas
Collection Christophe Soto
A key figure of the Paris avant-garde in the 1950s and ’60s, Jesús Soto (1923–2005) is widely recognized for his groundbreaking innovations in color theory, serial composition, and movement in art. Less well-known is the wide range of styles and mediums that he explored early on. Drawing inspiration from optics and serial music, Soto employed repeating geometric forms and superimposed surfaces to convey a sense of physical displacement. In deconstructing the notion of stability, Soto radically transformed the relation between object and audience. Encouraging viewers to interact physically with his work, Soto engages them as active participants in the process of perception.
Born in the Venezuelan provincial capital of Ciudad Bolívar, Soto trained at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Aplicadas in Caracas. Frustrated with his country’s increasingly repressive environment, he left in 1950 for Paris, the adopted home of many Latin American intellectuals and artists, including members of the radical Madí group, as well as U.S. artists such as Ellsworth Kelly and Jack Youngerman. In France Soto entered a period of intense activity, exhibiting at the annual Salon des Réalités Nouvelles alongside other artists of the Parisian avant-garde. At the invitation of Victor Vasarely, Soto participated in the pivotal 1955 exhibition Le Mouvement at the Galerie Denise René, which boosted the young artist’s reputation in both Europe and Venezuela as an innovator and vital member of the Kinetic movement.
Focusing on the two decades following Soto’s move to France, the works exhibited here are grouped in five sections, revealing his investigations into new modes of artistic engagement, his contact with European artists Yves Klein, Jean Tinguely, Daniel Spoerri, and the Group Zero, and his anticipation of later conceptual strategies. From his first experiments with “dematerial-ization” to his monumental Penetrables environments of the late 1960s, Soto’s achievements in the fields of perception and interaction during this twenty-year span established him as one of Latin America’s most influential 20th-century artists.
Soto: Paris and Beyond, 1950–1970 is organized by the Grey Art Gallery, New York University, and curated by Estrellita B. Brodsky.