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Jesús Rafael Soto: Pénétrable de Chicago



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.


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