Jesus Rafael Soto
Cardinal 1965

Artwork details

Jesus Rafael Soto 1923–2005
Date 1965
Medium Wood on chipboard, metal rods and nylon threads
Dimensions Object: 1562 x 1060 x 254 mm
Acquisition 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