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The Houston Penetrable

  • The Houston Penetrable
  • The Houston Penetrable
  • The Houston Penetrable
  • The Houston Penetrable
  • The Houston Penetrable

The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston has hosted “The Houston Penetrable,” an exhibition dedicated to the Venezuelan artist Jesús Rafael Soto (1923-2005).

Recognised in his lifetime as a pioneer in the landscape of modern art, curators and scholars are now beginning to revisit Soto’s posthumous impact on the history of art — an international trend that is illustrated by the artist’s prominent feature in solo and group shows throughout Europe and North America.

Born in Venezuela in 1923 and based, after 1950, in Paris, where he exhibited alongside Alexander Calder and Jean Tinguely, Soto made over 25 Penetrables in his career; he died in 2005, at 81.

A blend of geometric abstraction, Minimalist sculpture and playground, these simple grids of colorful PVC tubing were usually suspended from free-standing frames and often placed outside. Soto always considered them ephemeral, and only a handful have survived the inevitable wear and tear.

With a simple abstract-geometrical vocabulary, Soto developed an innovative artistic language with which he articulated immaterial elements and sensible states. Time, space, movement, and energy become perceptible values through dynamic, pulsating compositions that engage viewers in an interactive exchange.

Ethereal and pristine, “The Houston Penetrable,” is an art installation where sixty visitors at a time are allowed into its sea of 24,000 glistening clear PVC tubular strands hanging nine metres from ceiling to floor and spanning the open mezzanine. Floating within is an orb of radiant yellow created by strands painted to compose a perfect ellipse. Viewers can activate the perceptual maze of vibrating light and colour by playing among the tubes, as the work’s artist intended.

The Houston Penetrable is completed only by the viewer’s participation. Intended to be touched, handled, and waded through, the strands compose a floating yellow orb on a transparent background. The 24,000 PVC tubes, individually hand-painted and tied, hang two stories high, from the ceiling to the floor, in the Museum's Cullinan Hall.

Artist | Jesús Rafael Soto, Caracas, Venezuela 
Place | Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA 
Technical info | PVC tubes
Picture credits | Museum of Fine Arts