Jesus Rafael Soto

Relationships of Contrasting Elements


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Not on display

Jesus Rafael Soto 1923–2005
Original title
Relations eléments opposés
Aluminium and wood
Object: 1581 × 1073 × 152 mm
Purchased 1965

Display caption

Soto arrived in Paris, from Venezuela, in 1950. He was one of a number of Paris-based artists to be given an exhibition at Signals. Both reliefs shown here were included in an exhibition at the gallery in 1965. Soto wanted to create a purely abstract art, and developed a vocabulary based on repeating and superimposing straight lines, squares, and circles. The contrast between the monochrome planes and striped background creates an optical effect and the black and silver squares appear to be in motion.

Gallery label, July 2007

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Catalogue entry

Jésus-Rafael Soto born 1923

T00806 Relations Eléments opposés (Relationship of Contrasting Elements) 1965

Inscribed 'HAUT | "RELATIONES ELEMENTS OPPOSÉS' ' | Soto | 1965' on back
Relief of painted and stainless steel plates mounted on wood blocks mounted on painted wood mounted on chipboard, 62 1/4 x 42 1/4 x 6 (158 x 107 x 15)
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: The Tate Gallery (London 1969), p.171 ; Cyril Barrett, Op Art (London 1970), pl.28

Although Soto had used squares in his work as early as 1952, it was only in 1964-5 that he began to make reliefs with series of rows of square plates of standardised size superimposed on a hatched background. As he told Guy Brett in April 1965: 'By means of the endless repetition of the square, the square itself disappears and produces pure movement' (Signals, op. cit., p.13).

This particular numerical combination (six rows of four, divisible into six square groups of four and also into a large square plus half a square, like a predella) was a favourite of his at the time and was used for at least six reliefs of 1965-6, all the same size. 'Vibration' 1965 in the Guggenheim Museum, New York, is the simplest and therefore possibly the earliest of these, as it has four rows of black plates at the top and two rows of stainless steel plates below, against a uniformly striped greyish background. The Tate's relief, which was made specially for the exhibition at Signals London in October-December 1965, has exactly the same arrangement of black and stainless steel plates, but the upper two-thirds of the background (behind the black plates) is predominantly black, and the lower third (behind the silvery plates) predominantly white, while 'Relationship Yellow and Silvered' 1965 (sold at Christie's, London, 3 July 1979, lot 209, repr. in colour upside down) is very like the Tate's except that the bottom third of the background is a uniform yellow. 'Large Relationship - Black and Blue', also made in 1965 (sold at Christie's, New York, 3 November 1978, lot 41, repr. in colour) again has the same arrangement of plates, but the upper part of the background is greyish and the bottom third a uniform black. Finally, 'Large Relationship with a White Square' 1965 (cat. no.19 in Soto's exhibition at the Galerie Denise René, Paris, in May-June 1967 and reproduced) and 'One Silvery Square' 1966 in the Ulster Museum, Belfast, both have all black plates apart from one in stainless steel third from left in the second row from the bottom; but they differ in that the relief exhibited at the Galerie Denise René has a blackish and whitish background like the Tate's and the Ulster Museum's an all-over greyish one like the relief in the Guggenheim Museum.

The Tate's relief has also been known as 'Large Vibration'.

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.698, reproduced p.698

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