Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art Home


Document first page thumbnail

The theoretician Frank Popper analyzes the Kinetic aspects of the artwork of Jesús Soto, whom he identifies by his repetition of both visual and plastic elements in one object to obtain vibration. Popper also notes that this reading of what is known as “Venezuelan Kinetic art” eschews any traditional concept of figurative art. The writer informs us that the artist’s main interest is neither in form nor theme, rather in the relations set up between different elements, materials and movement phenomena. Soto’s focus places a priority on “optical movement” (also known as retinality), achieved through the interaction of the viewer with the work. Finally, Popper establishes links between the works of Soto and those of Yaacov Agam.


This text by Frank Popper (b. 1918) historian of art and technology, as well as professor of aesthetics and the science of art, was originally published in the book Origins and Development of Kinetic Art (1968). That same year, it was included in a catalogue for a joint exhibition of the work of Jesús Soto (1923–2005) and Armando Reverón (1889–1954)—discussing Soto’s contribution to that show—at the Museo de Arte Moderno de México (Chapultepec). The theme of the exhibition was the way the two artists address the problem of the perception of light from their different points of view. Regarding Soto, the historian refers us to Primera caja transparente, a work in which optical movement makes the light appear to move in lockstep with the viewer. Soto was one of the pioneers in creating optical and virtual Kinetic art (through vibration) in the sphere of contemporary art. Popper’s scientific interest in optics and the phenomena of movement in art led him to a technical analysis of this work. Soto makes use of several mechanisms (repetition and superimposition of planes) to achieve both optical/ virtual movement and vibration. What Popper finds interesting in Soto’s approach is that the artist achieves the effect of movement without using any mechanical or electronic mechanism. His personal connection with this trend through Soto, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Yaacov Agam and even Victor Vasarely had a profound impact on Popper, changing his view of contemporary art. [For other texts on Soto, see the ICAA digital archive: two texts by Alfredo Boulton, “El cinetismo de Soto” (doc. no. 1069749) and “Jesús Soto 1971” (doc. No. 1059661); an essay by Ariel Jiménez “Jesus Soto: Lo visible y lo posible” (doc. No. 1073684); one article by Alejandro Otero “Las Estructuras cinéticas de Jesús Soto” (doc. no. 850667) and another by Carlos Diez Sosa “Jesús Rafael Soto: La Gran Pintura es cosa de progreso histórico” (doc. no. 1097076); a text by Guillermo Meneses “Soto” (doc. no. 1080690); the text “Soto: Estructuras cinéticas” (doc. no. 1059619); the essay “Sin título” [text for the catalogue “Vibrations by Soto” published by The Kootz Gallery in 1965] (doc. no. 1069781); Roberto Guevara’s text “La energia como realidad” (doc. no. 1102332) and one by Vladimir Tismaneanu “La metafísica del espacio en la obra de Soto” (doc. no. 1101524)], among others.

Juan Carlos Azpúrua
Fundación Mercantil, Caracas, Venezuela
Frank Popper, 1968
CINAP. Centro de Informacion Nacional de Artes Plásticas. Galería de Arte Nacional, Plaza Los Museos, Los Caobos, Caracas.