Jesús Rafael Soto

August 28, 2005 - August 6, 2006

Was born in Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela, in 1923. He studied at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas (School of Fine Arts) in Caracas. Soto moved to Paris in 1950 where he joined the circle of abstract artists associated with the Salon des Realités Nouvelles (New Realities art show).

In 1955 he participated in the exhibition Le Mouvement (Movement) at Denise Rene Gallery. During this time he explored perceptual problems of the abstract-constructivist system and developed a kinetic vocabulary based on serializations that produced optical vibrations, which modified both space and the viewer's perception.

In 1963 he won the Lobo prize at the São Paulo Biennial and the following year he received the D. Bright second prize at the Venice Biennial. His work has been exhibited in different countries around the world and can be found at the hall of the UNESCO building in Paris (1969), the Bank of Toronto (1977), and at the Forum of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (1987). In addition, his pieces are included in major public collections such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim, MOMA New York, and the Tate Modern in London. In 1973 he founded Museo de Arte Moderno Jesús Soto (Jesús Soto Museum of Modern Art) in Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela, with works from his collection. Jesús Soto passed away in January, 2005

Jesús Soto is considered one of the founders of Kinetic art. What is Kinetic art? Kinetic art involves motion, generated by motors, by natural phenomena or by the spectator’s action.

The Kinetic movement was developed in Paris beginning in 1950. One of the principal promoters of Kinetic art was Denise Rene. Her gallery became the central meeting place for Kinetic artists, such as Soto. Kinetic artists thought that movement was an essential part of the universe and for that reason it had to be integrated into works of art.
The idea of creating art with movement emerged in the beginning of the 20th century, in various avant-garde movements in 1909, the Futurist movement sought to incorporate elements of the new modern industrial life into art, such as movement. To achieve this, the different positions of an object in motion were painted on one plane. In 1920, the Realist Manifesto of Russian artists, Anton Pevsner and Naum Gabo spoke of the importance of time and space by incorporating real movement in their work. In 1920, Marcel Duchamp created Rotary Glass Plates, which was composed of five glass planes that moved and created optical illusions. This particular work of art served as a reference for many kinetic artists.

Kinetic art was especially important in Venezuela because it represented the first radical break with academic and representational art. Three of the most significant Venezuelan Kinetic artists were: Jesús Soto, Carlos Cruz-Diez and Alejandro Otero. Other kinetic international artists of importance are: Alexander Calder, Victor Vasarely, Yaacov Agam and Jean Tinguely.

Soto’s artistic search was based on capturing movement in his art. He used to say that the world is in constant movement, therefore, according to Soto, an art that does not move, does not represent reality.

Between 1950-1955 he started experimenting with geometric forms and created his Repetition Paintings. These works of art are compositions that include simple geometric elements (triangles, circles, squares…) aligned and repeated in series. He was interested in visual dynamism.

Later, in 1955, he introduced space as an element in his work and developed his works on plexiglas, these were geometric drawings on two plexiglas planes that were superimposed and separated, they generated a dynamic effect when observed by a moving spectator.

In 1960 he introduced three-dimensional elements in his art and created a type of art that he referred to as Writings, Ts and Ambivalences. Writings are made with irregular wires that stick out from the surface of the artwork, while Ts are works with protruding T-shape wires that seem to move as the spectator moves. Ambivalences are made with movable squares that seem to be suspended in space.

Beginning in 1968, the spectator became part of the work of art in Soto’s Penetrables. These life-sized works of art were constructed with flexible nylon threads, creating an area where the spectator could enter and feel the vibration that exists in space.


IMPRESSIONISM: Composition or theme was not important for impressionist artists. They were interested in capturing light. Soto wanted to show the relationship between elements such as time, energy and movement. He was not interested in copying nature.

GEORGES BRAQUE: The first work of art that impressed Soto, when he arrived to caracas from his hometown, was a still life by this cubist artist. Soto was interested in the geometric transformation of forms found in cubism.

KAZIMIR MALEVICH: In 1913, this Ukrainian artist founded Suprematism, a movement based on the creation of austere geometric compositions, where the extreme reduction of color and form was important. Soto was interested in the purity of form achieved by Malevich.

PIET MONDRIAN: In Mondrian’s “Boogie-Woogies”, Soto discovered the visual dynamism generated in between horizontal and vertical lines. Mondrian’s boogie - woogie serie was a point of departure for Soto’s investigation into introducing movement in his work.

In 1973 Museo de Arte Moderno Jesús Soto was inaugurated in Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela. This museum houses Jesús Soto’s personal collection, which is focused on the diverse tendencies of Geometric Art, such as Neo-Plasticism, Concrete, Optical and Kinetic art.

Over 130 international artists comprise the museum’s collection; it includes artwork by Piet Mondrian, Alexander Calder, Kazimir Malevich, Christo, and Carlos Cruz-Diez. Approximately 600 works by Jesús Soto also complement the collection.

Museo de Arte Moderno Jesús Soto was designed by: Carlos Raúl Villanueva, who is considered one of the pioneers of modern architecture in Venezuela. One of his most important projects is the building of Ciudad Universitaria (University City) in Caracas (1944-1960). In this project he was able to integrate architecture with fine arts; he included works by the artist Alexander Calder, Jean Arp and Victor Vasarely in the architectural spaces ciudad universitania is considered world heritage by Unesco.

The museum’s building, rationalist in style and simple in design, shows the influence of Le Corbusier. The open building has exterior hallways that are connected to the gardens and exhibition rooms.