COLLECTING
Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury
Soto, Paris and Beyond 1950-1970

La cocotte, 1956; Courtesy of The Grey Arts Gallery

Jesus Soto (1923-2005), a Venezuelan artist who moved to Paris in the 1950s to escape his country’s political repression, is re-introduced to this side of the Atlantic with an exhibition at New York University’s Grey Arts Gallery.

The exhibit examines Soto’s production during two decades, from 1950 to 1970, and while he worked among the contemporary Parisian avant-garde that comprised Latin American, French, and a few American artists. Organized in five sections, Soto’s works speak of the new vocabulary explored by European artists such as Yves Klein, Jean Tinguely, Daniel Spoerri, and the Group Zero, all of who had been concerned with the “dematerialization” of art.

Estrellita Brodsky, the exhibit’s curator, defined these five sections as “Geometric Abstraction,” “Serial Composition,” “Overlays,” “Immaterial,” and “Language/Perception.” This classification allows a reading of Soto’s development in a very systematic way and emphasizes the artist’s progression from the experimental in form to the experimental in concept. The former is a method that allows the artist to ground his work in a representation of material form and to reduce it to its essence. It characterizes the works in “Geometric Abstraction.”  The latter, expressed in all remaining four sections, is a philosophical analysis of concepts whose core manifests itself in material form and engages the viewer in a constantly changing field of perception. What Soto accomplishes is to introduce the notion of time as the fourth dimension of his works and to further experiment with the impact of time on aesthetics.

Soto treats the material with which he works with sensibility and respect. He allows it to adjust to its own physicality (as is the case with his sculptural piece La Cocotte, 1956), which is suspended from the ceiling. The sculpture’s own gravity in combination with the viewer’s movement allow for an entire new reality to unfold. Soto’s works amaze the audience with their formal elegance, gestural brevity, and intellectual precision.

© Thomaï Serdari