Soto’s Jai Alai Series

Jésus Rafael Soto was a defining figure of both the Optical Art and Kinetic Sculpture movements. He was an acclaimed artist in his native Venezuela, having graduated from the Escuela de Bellas Artes y Artes Aplicadas in Caracas, and moved to Paris after the Second World War to undertake research in constructivist art. He participated in a groundbreaking exhibit at the Denise René Gallery in Paris called Le Mouvement. René’s guiding principle was that art must invent new paths in order to exist. And Soto’s art does just that.

He explored the phenomenological effects between two-dimensional and three-dimensional planes, fully engaging his viewers from every angle. He was a master at removing all subjectivity linked to personal taste, employing strictly geometric forms, squares, straight lines and primary colors, with a focus on the depiction of relationships between and movement of objects, rather than the objects themselves. 

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Soto’s Screenprints A, B, C & D from the Jai-Alai Series

The series takes its title from a sport in which the players and the ball remain in continuous motion, involving the ball to bounce off a walled space by accelerating it to high speeds with a hand-held device called a cesta. This continual movement transforms the relationship between space and time and are characteristics of the series that Soto explored in a conscious way. In naming the series Jai-Alai, the artist is allowing the viewer to understand his artistic research, by identifying the source. Just as in the process of observing the sport firsthand, each and every vantage point is equally as valid as it is important, and Soto has translated these distinct views into the artwork. The game does not occur from a single lens or fixed point of view, and neither does the art. It requires a process of moving through multiple states of time and space. 

Working with flat lines of color and abstract geometric form, the artist stimulates optical effect through the manipulation of color theory and the dynamic between background and foreground, turing the viewer into a spectator from many different angles. 

As one of the most intriguing artistic minds of his day, Jésus Rafael Soto’s quest for aesthetic representation of the immaterial, rejection of the figurative and use of traditional geometric form resulted in not only a career marked with ingenuity and success, but also of a wholly fresh and interactive experience for the viewer of his kinetic works.

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