JESÚS RAFAEL SOTO (Ciudad Bolívar 1923 – Paris 2005) is considered the precursor of cinetismo. His permanent inquiry about motion led him to defy the perceptive possibilities of the human eye. With the manifest intention of involving the spectator in his works, since the early 1950s he concentrated his efforts in the dynamic effects achieved through different, juxtaposed, bi-dimensional materials, until he came up with his great penetrables which allowed the public to be immersed in a living experience with the artwork.
In 1947 the Venezuelan painter and sculptor culminates his studies and is appointed director of the Maracaibo Art School. After presenting his first individual exhibition (1949) at the Free Art Workshop of Caracas, which shows a certain tendency toward the geometrization of forms as well as Paul Cézanne’s influence, in 1950 he moves to Paris, where he begins his experimentation with the systematic repetition of formal units. By using Plexiglas to allow the juxtaposition of elements, he carries out his first composite works. In 1955 he participates along with Yaacov Agam, Pol Bury, Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Jean Tinguely and Victor Vasarely in Le Mouvement, an exhibition at the Parisian Denise René Gallery, which signals the onset of cinetismo. In a permanent quest to combine materials and space, in 1958 he starts his well-known Vibrations series, composed by suspended metallic rods interacting with different backgrounds. Toward 1967, his vibrant walls are replaced by the unbounded penetrables, which reach sometimes areas of 400 square meters (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris – 1969). These works forward a spatial concept of totality which requires the spectator’s translation to achieve a dynamic experience.
In the early 1970s, as a continuation of his plastic research, Soto ventures with T-shaped rods in interaction with the background lines, thus starting his “T’s” series. During the 1980s and 1990s, he will also investigate the illusion of movement by using monochromatic squares floating in space.
In 1973, the artist donates the Jesús Soto Museum of Modern Art to his hometown, Ciudad Bolívar, designed by his perennial collaborator, architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva. Besides a great part of his works and a sonic penetrable in its gardens, the museum possesses relevant works by different artists linked to abstraction.
Jesús Rafael Soto has presented over 180 individual exhibitions in cities such as Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Paris, New York and Tokyo, among others. He has carried out monumental installations in Belgium, France, Switzerland and Venezuela, and on the occasion of the 1988 Olympic Games, in the Olympic Stadium of Seoul, South Korea. He participated in the First International Abstract Art Display at the Cuatro Muros Gallery (Caracas, 1952), and several times in the Venice Biennial (1958-1962–1964–1966) and Sao Paulo Biennial (1957–1959–1963). Several retrospective exhibitions were staged at the Caracas Museum of Fine Arts (1971), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York, 1974), Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas (1983) and Museum of Modern Art of Bogotá (2001).
Among a large number of acknowledgments bestowed upon him in his life, the French government grants him the Knight of Arts and Letters insignia in 1968. Also, UNESCO grants him the Picasso medal for a lifetime work dedicated to bring together the peoples of the world. In 2006, Buenos Aires receives for the first time the Jesús Rafael Soto. Visión en Movimiento exhibition, gathering in the halls of the Proa Foundation an outstanding selection of his works from the 1950-1999 period.