Renowned abstract artist Jesús Rafael Soto was a pioneer—and ultimately lifelong practitioner—of the Op and kinetic art movements, which prioritized both optical illusion and physical dynamism. After training in Caracas, Soto moved to Paris in 1950, where he participated in the seminal 1955 group exhibition Le Mouvement at Galerie Denise René, considered a crucial launching point for postwar experimentation with interactivity and perceptual experience. Believing that perception involves the entire body and not just the mind, Soto and his peers sought to revise the fundamentals of how an audience engages with art.
In 1967 Soto created his first so-called pénétrable, a kind of luminous environmental sculpture that not only invites but in fact demands audience participation. One of only about 30 ever produced by the artist, this iconic installation is on display for the first time since 1986. An early example of Soto’s signature environments, Pénétrable de Chicago presents thousands of transparent filaments hanging from the ceiling in a rectangular formation. Visitors are thus invited to enter an immersive forest of plastic tubes that shimmer and shift in response to every movement. “We are in the world like fish in water,” Soto once explained. In keeping with such a metaphor, his multisensory pénétrables render our passage through space fully palpable.
Sponsors The restoration and exhibition of Pénétrable de Chicago were made possible through the generous support of the Community Associates of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Jesús Rafael Soto. Pénétrable de Chicago, 1971. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Randall Shapiro.
2 days 11 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago TOMORROW at 4:00—See the world premiere of “The Electric Stage” by performance collective Manual Cinema.
Manual Cinema uses vintage overhead projectors, multiple screens, puppets, actors, live camera feeds, sound design, and a live music ensemble to create immersive visual stories on stage and screen.
2 days 14 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago A Sunday on La Grande Jatte has been among the museum’s most beloved paintings since it first entered the collection in 1926. ARTicle celebrates the birthday of Georges Seurat, with some fun facts about this pointillist masterpiece.
3 days 6 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago #TBT Ladies strike a pose in Blackstone Hall, 1909.
Demolished in 1958, the enormous two-story gallery once spanned the area between where the Asian art and Prints and Drawings galleries are today and housed over 150 plaster cast sculptures, many replicas of Greek and Roman art received as gifts from the French government.