From his youth, Jesús Rafael Soto showed signs of being a great artist; he was a leader in the kinetic art movement working closely with Carlos Cruz-Díz, Yaacov Agam, Victor Vasarely, Alejandro Otero and others. His skills led him to participate in the 1955 pivotal exhibition Le Mouvement at the Galerie Denise René in Paris alongside Calder, Duchamp, Tinguely and other prominent artists. In 1960 he won the National Prize of Painting in Venezuela. Three years later Soto won the Lobo prize at the São Paulo Biennial, and the following year he received the D. Bright second prize at the Venice Biennale. By the late 1960s Soto had already accomplished a coherent body of work which still stands in a relevant place at the evolution of contemporary art.
Soto was looking for a way to achieve a strong vibrating state and to integrate real movement into the work of art; he therefore developed his works by mastering repetition, the final result being an intense optical whole that affects the spectator's perception. His early pieces were worked out in black and white; later introducing color when he had succeeded in resolving the formal concerns.
Executed in 1971, Gris et couleur is an artwork that brings together Soto's vocabulary of anonymous elements. The artist reduced his means to elements of no compositional value, and the device of superimposition enabled him to create the space between the elements, fluid, unstable, both "pictorial" and "physical" at the same time. When he hung the squares in front of the lined screen, the optical interference of these two elements released a third--the vibration-- which is real though it has no material existence.
The artist chose to work with the fewest forms to get as far as possible from a description. The elements Soto worked with are without value to themselves, they are employed simply to demonstrate relations. By means of the repetition of the square, the square itself disappears and produces pure movement. The Venezuelan master used the yellow hue in this 1971 piece with a frankness devoid of any fear of instability.
Soto broke down the traditional relationship among objects in the pictorial space. Above and below, right and left, became equivalents. There is a feeling of immateriality and fading away, since backgrounds are mistaken and figures seem to float and evaporate. The Venezuelan artist created a new visual language within art history: virtual movement in the corporeal dematerialization of the artwork, which conceptualizes three-dimensionality in art that dematerializes and evaporates.
Isabela Villanueva, Assistant Curator, Americas Society, New York.