Jesus Rafael Soto



Jesus Rafael Soto 1923–2005
Original title
Wood on chipboard, metal rods and nylon threads
Object: 1562 x 1060 x 254 mm
Purchased 1965


Cardinal 1965 is a rectangular, vertically oriented relief by Venezuelan artist Jesus-Rafael Soto. The work is comprised of forty-five steel rods suspended horizontally at one end by nylon thread, one above the other in a cascading criss-cross configuration. The rods are mounted onto a black wooden backboard or frame which protrudes forward in two shelf-like projections at the top and bottom. In between and behind each rod are thirteen evenly spaced horizontal grooves, the inside of which are painted alternately black and purple. The areas between the grooves are painted with very fine white horizontal lines. The rods are painted black on one side of the centre line and purple on the other. As they are suspended from only one point, they move quite freely in any air currents, creating powerful optical effects against the static horizontals of the background. The work is inscribed ‘Soto/1965’ on the back top left of the relief and ‘HAUT’ at top centre. Further down towards centre ‘CARDENAL’ is inscribed and underlined twice.

Like Soto’s work Relationships of Contrasting Elements 1965 (Tate T00806), Cardinal was made especially for an exhibition at Signals Gallery in London entitled The Achievements of Jesus-Rafael Soto 1950–1965: 15 Years of Vibrations, held between October and December 1965. Both works are part of Soto’s wider Vibrations Series. The exhibition at Signals Gallery included several other works with a large number of hanging rods, suspended on nylon threads in front of a striated black and white background. To mark the exhibition, a special issue of the Signals News Bulletin devoted entirely to Soto was published, edited by the artist David Medalla.

Cardinal and Relationships of Contrasting Elements can be viewed as extensions of the themes that preoccupied Soto while he was developing Horizontal Movement 1963 (Tate T00649). Writing of the evolution of his practice in 1965, and speaking specifically of the Vibrations Series, Soto observed: ‘[Horizontal Movement] is one of the first truly mobile works that I made after the virtual mobiles with the superimpositions. As a development of this theme I am working at the moment on pictures with a large number of hanging rods’ (quoted in Alley 1981, p.697).

The title Cardinal may relate to the purple colour of the rods. Underlining the importance of physics, light and energy in his works, in 1966 the artist characterised his intention for the Vibrations Series as follows: ‘What interests me is the transformation of matter. Taking an element, a line, a bit of wood or metal, and transforming it into pure light ... transforming it into vibrations’ (quoted in Carlos Diaz Sosa and Jesus-Rafael Soto 1966, accessed 10 May 2016).

Further reading
David Medalla (ed.), Signals News Bulletin: Jesus-Rafael Soto, London 1965.
Carlos Diaz Sosa and Jesus-Rafael Soto, ‘La Gran Pintura es Cosa de Progreso Histórico’, El Nacional, 1 August 1966.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery’s Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, London 1981, p.697, reproduced p.697.

Judith Wilkinson
May 2016

Supported by Christie’s.

Display caption

Soto left Venezuela for Paris in 1950 where, influenced by Piet Mondrian’s late works, he set out to make paintings that appeared to move. His interest in the transformation of matter into energy led him to create a series of reliefs he called vibrations. In these works, layers of lines, either static or mobile, produce an optical disturbance. In Cardinal a cascade of stems hangs in front of a striped background, gently swinging with the air around it. This movement is enhanced by the optical effects of the rods against the hand-drawn lines.

Gallery label, October 2016

Catalogue entry

Jésus-Rafael Soto born 1923

T00793 Cardinal 1965

Inscribed 'HAUT', 'Soto | 1965' and '"CARDENAL"' on back
Painted wood mounted on chipboard, with painted metal rods suspended on nylon threads, 61 1/2 x 41 3/4 x 10 (156.5 x 106 x 25.5)
Purchased from the artist through Signals London (Grant-in-Aid) 1965
Exh: The Achievements of Jésus-Rafael Soto 1950-1965: 15 Years of Vibrations, Signals London, London, October-December 1965 (works not listed)
Lit: 'Stop Press' in Signals, 1, No.10, November-December 1965, p.2
Repr: Michael Compton, Optical and Kinetic Art (London 1967), on cover in colour

Like T00806, this was made specially for the exhibition at Signals London in October-December 1965, which included various other works with a large number of hanging rods, suspended on nylon threads in front of a striated black and white background. This was an elaboration of the same theme as the Tate's 'Horizontal Movement' of 1963. Not only do the forms disappear as a result of the displacement of the spectator, and are perceived mainly as vibrations, but the suspended bars can be swung, creating sensations of motion and producing musical sounds.

The title 'Cardinal' was suggested by the purple colour of the rods.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.697, reproduced p.697

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