Posts Tagged ‘Op Art’

Art | Seeing Double – SOTO in Paris + New York

Friday, January 16th, 2015

Doble progresión azul y negra, 1975
Paint on metal
View of the work in situ at Galerie Perrotin, 2015
Photo Livia Saavedra

Jesús Rafael Soto
Galerie Perrotin
Paris | France
Until 28th February 2015


Jesús Rafael Soto
Galerie Perrotin
New York | USA
Until 21st February 2015

s / t, (Mur bleu), 1966
Paint on wood and metal
View of the work in situ at Galerie Perrotin, 2015
Photo Guillaume Ziccarelli

Venezuelan kinetic artist, sculptor and painter Jesús Rafael Soto was born in 1923 and died in 2005. He trained at art school in Caracas and went to Paris in 1950, which remained his base for the rest of his life. A recent retrospective at the the Centre Pompidou (2013), and his inclusion in Dynamo. A Century of Light and Movement in Art 1913-2013 at Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris (2013), as well as his inclusion in the current ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s at the Guggenheim Museum in NewYork – in the building where Soto had a major retrospective in 1974 – have all contributed to a much-deserved rediscovery of this internationally-important artist and his oeuvre.

In earlier decades, as will undoubtably be the case now, a great deal was written about Soto (1923 >2005), and, throughout his lifetime he was passionately vociferous in extolling and defending the virtues of kinetic art in numerous and insightful press interviews and letters.

‘I have always tried to make art where given forms, even geometric ones, don’t count. My investigations have nothing to do with the objects themselves. My painting tries to represent movement, vibration, light, space, time, things that exist but which do not have a determined form, and the only way I have found to do this is to attempt to represent the relationships between them. Relationships are an entity, they exist and so they can be represented.
Soto in conversation with Pedro Espinoza Troconis, 1960

In Paris he had attended lectures on constructivism, on Mondrian and neoplasticism. He saw work by Kandinsky and came into contact with Sophie Taeuber- Arp, as well as being drawn to the work of the Bauhaus masters, Moholy-Nagy, Klee and Albers. He would say later: ‘There is no need to see White Square on White Background to appreciate it. It is enough to know the proposition. I saw this painting recently in New York. I was no more moved than by the idea I had already formed of it. I had known of its existence since 1949. Wonderful! I said then. That sums it up. By painting white on white, Malevich was saying: Let’s paint light as light. Let’s lay it directly on the canvas. No need for the objects we normally use to capture it.’
Soto, as quoted by Jean Clay, Jesús Rafael Soto, Visages de l’art moderne, Lausanne, Éditions Rencontre, 1969

Soto exhibited with Calder, Duchamp and Vasarely, among others, in 1955, showing several perspex reliefs. Duchamp’s spiral Rotative Demisphère, was to inspire Soto’s Spirale, a perspex relief that, for the first time, demanded the unconscious involvement of the viewer.

Soto was a big fan of Yves Klein finally meeting him in 1958, just after the opening of Klein’s exhibition ‘Le Vide’ (Emptiness). ‘This empty room was clearly characteristic of the monochrome Yves… I warmly embraced the idea of emptiness…’ he is quoted on the official Soto website as having said afterwards.

In the mid-sixties – Soto having initially been friendly with Victor Vasarely – disparaging of op art and keen to distance himself and those who were working in the area of kinetic art from it, Soto stated: ‘Vasarely is an optical painter, who worked in the spirit of the Bauhaus, but who remains a two-dimensional painter. I, on the other hand, consider myself a kinetic painter.
Soto, in conversation with Carlos Diaz Sosa, 1966

In an earlier letter to Kunsthalle Bern, regarding a forthcoming exhibition Light and Motion / Kinetic art / New Trends in Architecture to which kinetic artists had been invited to contribute, Soto made it clear that: ‘Eager to avoid all confusion between our work [the kinetic artists] and the very different work of the so-called ‘optical’ school, we are particularly concerned that the Bern [exhibition] selection be respected – a selection exclusively founded, as its title suggests, on the idea of real movement. It was indeed contrary to our agreement that a large number of so-called ‘optical’ works were added to the kinetic selection we were presenting with our friends at the Brussels exhibition. We are determined henceforth to prevent this kind of confusion as it can only hinder understanding of our work.
Letter, 1965, Soto archive, Paris

Un orange Inférieur, 1984
Paint on wood and metal

Vibración amarilla y blanca, 1994
Paint on wood and metal, nylon

Pénétrable bbl bleu, 1999 – Edition 2007
PVC, métal / PVC, metal
View of the work in situ at Galerie Perrotin, 2015
Photo Livia Saavedra

‘For me, art is a science, a way of knowing the universe… Rather than denying space, I have decided to use it… I gradually realised that modern man could no longer look at an artwork at a single glance, as at the Mona Lisa in the Renaissance. There was a physical problem of perception that forced him to decipher, to look at the work as unfolded, like a film, no longer considering it as a work of art.’
Soto, conversation with Jean-Luc Daval, Journal de Genève, Geneva, 1970

Collaborating closely with the architect Oscar Niemeyer, and, after working on them for over a year in 1975, Soto completed the installation of environments in the foyer and in the entrance to the company canteen at the Renault car factory in the Paris suburb, Boulogne-Billancourt. They comprised of architectural integrations involving grids of vibrating squares covering pillars, a 30 metres long Writing piece, and a ceiling covered with 250,000 hanging stalks set close together. ‘We must interpret the values that, thanks to science, completely change our idea of the universe, and we must propose them in our turn through art…’ Soto said in an interview with Ernesto González Bermejo, in 1979. In the same piece he is quoted as having said that we [mankind] have lost the wonderful idea perpetuated by the Greeks, by Medieval and Renaissance artists, of an art of participation, of monumental art. ‘To make a monumental piece,’ he said, ‘no artist can work alone.’

By the 1980s, totally sure of himself and the direction his art was proceeding in, Soto told one author that, ‘If art is to reflect its time it must be at the very forefront of its own concerns, it must reflect avant-garde thought and not limit itself to bearing immediate witness to everyday things.
Marcel Joray, Soto, Neuchâtel, Éditions du Griffon, 1984

‘What is a Pénétrable? It’s the idea of swallowing up the viewer in the artwork.’
Soto, in an interview with Daniel Abadie, Banque Bruxelles Lambert, 1999

Some sixty pieces, produced between 1957 and 2003, from Soto’s estate and various institutions are on show in the Galerie Perrotin Chronochrome exhibitions, taking place simultaneously in its Paris and New York spaces.

Works by Jésus Rafael Soto are included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, both in New York, USA; Tate, London, UK; Stadelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, both in The Netherlands; Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina; the Jésus Rafael Soto Museum of Modern Art, Ciudad Bolívar, and Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, both in Venezuela; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France; and Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan.

All works shown by Jesús Rafael Soto
All images © Jesús Rafael Soto / DACS, London / ADAGP, Paris, 2015,
courtesy Galerie Perrotin
Selected quotes from the official SOTO site

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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Books | The Op-Art of the Invisible

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Singular Point

Poemotion 2
Takahiro Kurashima
Designed by Takahiro Kurashima
Lars Müller Publishers / 2013
64 pp / 30 images / hardback
170 x 230 mm / 6 3/4 x 9 ins
ISBN 978-3-03778-351-1
English text

Red Square

When this beautiful, finely-crafted little book arrived we thought ‘Yes, isn’t it nice,’ but we’ve been looking at op-art since Josef Albers started playing around with it at the Bauhaus, closely followed by Victor Vasarely. In the 1960s and 70s Bridget Riley’s mind-bending compositions made us woozy and weak at the knees. So what’s so special about these images?

Covers of Poemotion 1 and Poemotion 2

Had we seen Japanese advertising art director Takahiro Kurashima’s black and white bestselling Poemotion 1, prequal to the all colour Poemotion 2, we would immediately have realised that something was missing. As it happened, the all important sheet of etched black film – required to make the images interactive – that must be laid over the graphic abstract patterns to create the moiré effects that set them wildly spinning and vibrating, was accidently left out of the package.


Penrose Triangle

For all its small proportions and lightness of touch, the concept of Poemotion 2 is based in philosophy. Kurashima quotes Galileo, who in 1623 wrote: ‘The universe cannot be read until we have learned the language and become familiar with the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language. The letters are triangles, circles and other geometric figures, without which it is humanly impossible to comprehend a single word.’ The design of the book is both minimal and warm, which makes it feel very much of the moment, but Kurashima was strongly influenced by Hans Knuckel and Jurg Nanni’s Seesaw (1994), also produced by Swiss masters of the modern book, Lars Müller Publishers, which he says taught him about the sense of invisibility.

All images © 2014 Takahiro Kurashima & Lars Müller Publishers

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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Auction | Modern & Post-War British Art

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Modern & Post-War British Art

Sotheby’s, London. Evening Sale, 15th November, 2011

Exhausted. Broke. Britain, after Hitler’s war was a barren and desolate landscape. But while the rest of Europe rapidly recovered, rebuilding both their shattered cities and economies, Britain lagged behind, its population having to endure food rationing – that had begun in 1940 – until 1954. The country’s economy never really got going again until the latter half of the 1980s. It might be surprising and seem ironic then that a group of paintings, drawings and sculpture representative of the prodigious output by British artists from the post-war years, together with others from the 21-year inter-war period – itself dogged by unemployment and poverty, and hit hard by the 1929 Wall Street Crash – are expected to reach a combined total of £7.2 – 10.8 m ($11.9 – 17.3m) in this forthcoming auction at Sotheby’s, London.

Born in 1878 – well before WWI during which he was a war artist – master-draughtsman, Augustus John’s, David at the Table portrays the somewhat idealised image of a haggard though handsome, wild-eyed young man in work clothes sat slumped at a plain table on which one senses there is no food and might not have been for some time. Generally considered to be the most famous British artist of his day, John himself was never short of money or commissions, however he cultivated a bohemian image inspired by his admiration for the lifestyle of gypsies. Perhaps the bluntness of Laurence Stephen Lowry’s painting, The Cripples (Political Argument) executed shortly after WWII comes closer to reality. Along with other Lowry’s it is also included in the sale.

Bridget Riley, born to middle-class London parents in 1931, would have been eight years old when war broke out in 1939. Raised in the relative safety of the west country, she was educated at Cheltenham Ladies College before coming up to London to study at Goldsmiths then at The Royal College of Art. Her signature, disorientating Op Art painting style matured at the beginning of the 60s with which it and she became synonymous. At a time when the younger generation, anxious to escape the dullness and squalor of the 1950s, living in the shadow of the Cold War and of the possibility of a nuclear holocaust, experimented with hallucinogenic drugs, these paintings were said to inspire audience participation. Becoming disillusioned when her style was exploited for commercial purposes, Riley abandoned it in favour of pursuing ideas concerned with colour, in so doing backing away from the limelight. She was fifty-one when she painted the strikingly linear Praise 1 at the dawn of the 80s.

The same age as Riley, Frank Auerbach, whose gaunt work, Head of Gerda Boehm, among others is also included in the sale, was born of Jewish parentage in Berlin. Sent to England in 1939 to escape Nazism, his mother and father remained behind and perished in concentration camps. Young Frank was evacuated to Shropshire but ended up attending London’s St Martin’s School of Art and going on to the RCA, where he and Bridget Riley were contemporaries.

Painter, William Roberts, started out as a poster designer and studied at the Slade; leaving the school in 1913 he travelled in France and Italy and fought in the trenches during WWI, the sheer horror of the experience, as with many other artists who went to fight, significantly changing the direction of his work. Roberts was one of the signatories to the first issue of BLAST, the short-lived literary magazine of the Vorticist movement in Britain. He developed an interest for representing and interpreting the predominantly working class elements of metropolitan London’s everyday life and events – visits to the cinema, the dancehall but treating them with dignity and humour. Roberts’ painting:s The Boxing Match, produced between 1919-25 and The Barber’s Shop, circa 1946, along with Bath Night, 1929, are all in this sale.In contrast, Barbara Hepworth’s Mincarlo: Three Curves with Strings, created in 1971, only four years before the sculptor’s death and, although small in size – only 16.5 cm high, excluding black, polished stone base – is unashamedly extravagant and luxurious in use of materials.

Hepworth, from Wakefield in Yorkshire was born in 1903 to middle class parents and died in 1975; her adulthood spans much of the scope of this sale. Aged 17, not long after the Great War ended, she went to Leeds School of Art before being accepted at the RCA, soon becoming well-connected to the up-and-coming art cognescenti including sculptors Henry Moore and John Skeaping. Marrying the latter, the couple regularly exhibited together to great acclaim but drifted apart and separated in 1931. Soon after Hepworth met Ben Nicholson whom she was later to marry and to form a long-standing creative relationship with in which together they moved into abstraction. Both artists benefited enormously from forging links to the continental avant gardists – Picasso, Mondrian, Brancusi – and from those artists who fled Europe and came to England prior to WWII – Gabo, Walter Gropius, Moholy-Nagy. When the war began Hepworth and Nicholson relocated to St Ives in Cornwall where they continued to work and succeeded in their efforts to attract international attention. In the 50s, after divorcing Nicholson, Hepworth confirmed her reputation as one of Britain’s major artists producing two sculptures for 1951’s Festival of Britain and retrospective shows in Wakefield and at London’s Whitechapel. Both the 50s and 60s were good to her; Hepworth’s international stature grew. She was awarded the CBE and later, the DBE. She had a further retrospective in 1962 at the Whitechapel, became a trustee of the Tate and had a retrospective exhibition there in 1968. Barbara Hepworth died in St Ives in 1975 – her studio and garden there are now a museum administered by the Tate – after a long battle with cancer. Celebrating her achievement and named in her honour, 2011 saw the opening of the Hepworth Wakefield gallery in her home town.

Sold earlier this year through Christies and significantly surpassing its estimated sale price of £70,000 – £100,000, ($112,980 – $161,400) selling at £145,000 ($236,612), the Mincarlo: Three Curves with Strings, sculpture is of 18 carat gold (Apparently, the best gold you can get for making precious objects, 22 carat is too soft). Deep in the current world recession, apparently far worse than that of the 30s and in post WWII Britain, and as gold prices head towards $5,000 (£3,127) an ounce, curiously in Sotheby’s Modern & Post-war British Art sale the estimated price for this piece exactly matches the earlier Christie’s estimate.

Works from top
Bridget Riley, Praise 1, circa 1981. Estimate £150,000-250,000
Augustus John OM, RA, David at the Table. Estimate £20,000-30,00
Dame Barbara Hepworth, Mincarlo: Three Curves with Strings, 1971.
Estimate £70,000-100,000
Frank Auerbach, Head of Gerda Boehm, 1971. Estimate £180,000-250,000
William Roberts RA, The Barber’s Shop, circa 1946. Estimate, £70,000-100,000

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