Petit Canada, 1975 signed, titled and dated 'Soto 1975 Petit Canada' (on the reverse) acrylic on wood with painted metal and nylon string 31 1/4 x 31 1/2 x 9in. (79.3 x 80 x 22.8cm)
PROVENANCE: Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner.
"No artist today can ignore space-time. We must find artists, even among those who continue to work within two-dimensional formats, who provoke a new sentiment: that in art there are no longer observers but participants. The artist does not have the final word."
Delicate, ethereal, and imbued with energy, Petit Canada demonstrates Jesús Rafael Soto's unique and brilliant ability to visually orchestrate the clashing of sight and pictorial space on a three dimensional level. Like many of the artist's works dating from the 1960s onwards, thin metal rods are suspended from nylon wire swaying over a delicately segmented and almost austere white background. In a sense it is part painting and part sculpture. It is these simple materials, the delicate balance, and almost unnerving spatial constructions he creates that together so sublimely define Soto's most iconic works.
In 1958, Soto was introduced to the renowned Nouveau réalisme artist Yves Klein through his friend Jean Tinguely while living and working in Paris. At the time, the two artists had very different working methods and utilized dissimilar media; however, their interactions and friendship would eventually lead to some shared ideology. Wed to performance art and to creating deeply pigmented, monochromatic canvases, Klein's creations allowed the viewer to enter a space of the "Blue Void", elevating one to a different state. Soto, on the other hand, explored the possibilities of experiential shifts through kinetic sculptures in order to specifically investigate the dynamism and tension created by juxtaposing planar dimensions over geometric fields. What Soto and Klein did share in common was a strong belief that art--and the experience of being in front of certain physically engaging works--could elevate and inspire one to see and experience something beyond the media itself. In essence both artists were insistent that a strong experience and connection with art could challenge how the world is seen by the viewer from that moment going forward. This principle has united several schools of art throughout the 20th Century to the present day.
Executed in 1975 the present work was made after the extended period Soto spent in Paris and eventual return to his native Venezuela. Petit Canada represents an important stepping stone for Soto as his work began to evolve from his earlier Escrituras, begun in 1962, into his final series of works including the Penetrables series and the other large scale installations he later became so well known for. The Escrituras were visually quite similar to the present lot, however, the shapes of the hanging wire elements were more often curved and directed in varying angleswhich served as a reminder of his previous interest in music and language as it appears on the page. The present work marks a departure from this interest as he focused more on the specific interaction of the viewer with space and the tension that was created due to this juxtapositionan idea that was further addressed with his Penetrables. These later works were produced on a massive scale often encompassing entire rooms and large scale spaces yet utilized many of the same materials and visual troupes.
One of the best known works from this period, Suspended Virtual Volume, a permanent installation for the interior lobby of the Royal Bank of Canada, was completed in 1978, and is on view to this day. It was during Soto's frequent visits to Toronto while working on and planning this project, that he met, befriended and created Petit Canada for the present owner of the piece.
"Perspective, which for centuries was unquestioned in Europe, is only one way of interpreting the third dimension. An Indian of the Orinoco, who constructs circular houses and conceives of the universe in such terms, doesn't understand perspective. In a Western context, the intersection of the infinitely small and the infinitely large is a difficult concept to live with. We can understand it theoretically or scientifically, but we resist its effect on our everyday lives. Westerners define themselves as observers of the world, so as an artist I have to come up with ways of making that observer feel and experience the infinite spaces of which we are all made" (Soto).
"We recognize the existence of Relations in every lucid moment of our behavior. We are amazed by the laws of chance, without realizing that we are merely becoming aware of realities which we had not dreamed existed. Elements are immersed in the work, like fish in the water. All their directions, speeds, positions, are ordained by and enveloping whole, on which they are dependent and which predetermines their variants. Their force is measured by the number of their relations. This state, conscious or not, of the contemporary artist; has given to the art of our time its surprisingly rich range of possibilities" Jesús Rafael Soto (Jesús Rafael Soto, quoted in Soto, exh. cat., New York and London, Haunch of Venison, May 2011, unpaged).
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