Jesús Rafael Soto’s Escritura Hurtado

To approach Escritura Hurtado is to surrender the certainty of perception.  One of a series of escrituras, or “writings,” executed by the Venezuelan artist Jesús Rafael Soto in the 1960s and 1970s, the surface appears to reveal a mysterious script.  A message forms but then visually recedes in a vertical forest of painted lines.  Move closer, and the curving lines literally dance into the foreground.  These dynamic wires are the record of the artist’s hand, drawing with a calligraphic flourish and animating the space between painted surface and the viewer.

Space was one of many universal themes that Soto explored in his work.  He conceived of art, he said, “as a set of questions that must be solved by the artist, because they are problems posed by the age in which he lives.”  Spatial relationships in Escritura are fluid. At the bottom, the wires have a physical presence that defines space.  But against the background of black and white striations, their materiality dissipates and space becomes ambiguous, indefinite…

Soto goes beyond reorienting the relationships between the physical elements of his work.  His art also requires a different kind of relationship with the viewer – one of active participation in bringing movement and the concept of time to these simple materials. Our lateral motion creates a corresponding wave of optical vibrations that pulse energetically across our field of vision, almost like a musical rhythm.

Music was important to Soto – he played the guitar – and it was in the mathematical precision of the music of Bach and the modern serial composers that Soto recognized the pure abstraction he sought for his art.  Like Bach, Soto builds an underlying structure that frames our experience.  But it is through our collaboration with Soto that we surrender our certainty – we embrace instead an art of infinite possibilities.

By Mimi Ginsberg.