Jesús Rafael Soto Untitled 1959

  • Not on view

Though he received his training in art at Caracas’s Escuela de Artes Plásticas, Soto was based in Paris through most of the 1950s. There he immersed himself in the international avant-garde practices of Op art and Kinetic art, which sought to animate conventional approaches to abstraction, especially in painting, by incorporating elements of real or perceived motion.

This untitled work belongs to Soto’s Vibrations series, which he began in 1959; like other works in the series, it uses repetitive patterns and diverse materials to explore the dynamic space between the artwork and the viewer. The piece also plays with the traditional boundaries between painting and sculpture. Viewed from the front, it appears—like a painting—to be a static design on a flat surface. Seen from any other angle, however, its simple linear shapes begin to vibrate and contort, creating a dizzying visual effect. From the side, the work’s three-dimensional form becomes clear, with twisted black wires projecting forward from the wood support. Scattered segments of wire have been painted a rusty red, enhancing the illusory sense of motion, emphasizing the metallic material, and adding hints of color and depth to the otherwise monochrome and systematic composition. In profile the tangled shapes emerge as an independent sculpture, silhouetted by the surrounding space.

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Tempera on wood with painted wire
9 1/2 x 7 1/2 x 5 5/8" (24 x 19 x 14.1 cm)
Gift of Philip Johnson
Object number
© 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Painting and Sculpture

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