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In this essay, the historian and art critic Alfredo Boulton discusses the thinking and artistic philosophy of Jesús Rafael Soto (1923–2005), to whom he assigns a place of honor within the pantheon of the artistic avant-garde—calling him the product of relentless human evolution. Boulton also mentions some of the optical mechanisms that Soto uses, and comments on various facets of his work, such as the involvement of the viewer and the viewer’s relationship to the work. The historian ends his essay with a list of Soto’s solutions to a number of perception problems that have challenged artists since time immemorial.


This essay by the Venezuelan historian, photographer, and art critic Alfredo Boulton (1908–95) appeared in the catalogue for Expo 67 in Montreal, where the visual artist Jesús Rafael Soto (1923–2005) and the architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva (1900–75) represented their country at the Venezuelan pavilion. Rather than produce a simple list of biographical or artistic facts, Boulton interprets Soto’s work and thinking as the paradigm of human evolution in the visual arts, following the example of avant-garde artists such as Marcel Duchamp and André Breton. According to Boulton, Soto’s work is the product of the evolutionary process that affects all aspects of human creativity, including the artistic aspect. Sometimes, however, evolution is misunderstood, especially when it leaps over established barriers and addresses new and hitherto unimaginable dimensions. Soto’s real contribution, according to Boulton, was his re-definition of concepts such as “form” and “image,” and elements such as “color” and “movement.” The main theme of Expo 67 was “Man and his World,” with a special emphasis on the ideological, cultural, and scientific relationships that mankind establishes with his environment. This is also a recurring theme in Soto’s artistic philosophy because the individual is a fundamental element in his works, and the relationships that are established (between the viewer and the work) are what give them their true meaning. There is a symbiotic relationship involved, in which one cannot exist (aesthetically) without the other. Soto’s involvement with Villanueva was not without precedent because, exactly ten years earlier, Soto had contributed an Estructura Cinética to the Síntesis de las Artes project that the Venezuelan architect was creating on the campus of the Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas.   


To read other articles about the artist Jesús Soto, see the article by Boulton “Jesús Soto 1971” [doc. no. 1059661]; the essay by Ariel Jiménez “Jesús Soto: Lo visible y lo posible” [doc. no. 1073684]; the article by Alejandro Otero “Las estructuras cinéticas de Jesús Soto” [doc. no. 850667]; the article by Guillermo Meneses “Soto” [doc. no. 1080690]; the one by various authors titled “Soto: Estructuras cinéticas” [doc. no. 1059619]; the text by Umbro Apollonio “(Untitled) [in the catalogue “Vibrations by Soto” at The Kootz Gallery 1965]” [doc. no. 1069781]; the article by Roberto Guevara “La energía como realidad” [doc. no. 1102332]; the article by Vladimir Tismaneanu “La metafísica del espacio en la obra de Soto” [doc. no. 1101524]; and Roberto Guevara’s interview “La nueva lectura de la realidad: Una conversación con el maestro Jesús Soto” [doc. no. 1059731].

Juan Carlos Azpúrua
Fundación Mercantil, Caracas, Venezuela
Courtesy of Alberto Vollmer Foundation, Caracas, Venezuela.
CINAP. Centro de Informacion Nacional de Artes Plásticas. Galería de Arte Nacional, Plaza Los Museos, Los Caobos, Caracas.