Through the years, the Grey Art Gallery has brought some truly great exhibitions to our campus. This time around is no exception. Soto: Paris and Beyond, 1950-1970, is a collection of works made by Venezuelan artist Jesús Soto after he left his native land and moved to Paris, a land of intellectual freedom and promise. Many of Soto’s works involve pure geometries and repetition, drawing on forms of music that are purely abstract to create a completely non-figurative visual experience. Additionally, many of his works involve viewer participation through movement, which often results in disorienting optical phenomena.
After studying figurative art (focusing on the landscape), Soto sought to create an experience completely detached from the real world, one of pure abstraction. Like many artists, he sought inspiration in the world of music. Notes and harmonies hold no literal meaning, yet can convey emotion. In some of his works, by using principles of musical composition, he was able to lay out geometric forms in a formulaic manner, both reducing the role of the artist and creating a visual harmony echoing those found in song.
Another of Soto’s inspirations was movement, and he began to experiment with painted plexiglass over painted canvas. In these works, dual layers of stripes pass by each other as the viewer moves about, creating an optical vibration. Later, Soto would expand upon these vibrations, hanging thin wire over striated backgrounds, creating a similar yet all together different effect as his earlier plexiglass works.
Though this show is one that could be quickly browsed and forgotten, the true power of it lies in the subtly of the experience, one which can only be had by walking around each piece in real space. With each subsequent piece (wonderfully curated in a sensible progression), the viewer experiences a more refined sensation that the one before. In a film playing in the lower gallery, Soto mentions his emphasis on the ‘vibration,’ an element of his work that takes time and exploration to be fully appreciated but one that is fully worth waiting for.
Soto: Paris and Beyond, 1950-1970 is currently on display at the Grey Art Gallery at NYU until March 31.