Excerpt: Jesús Soto in conversation with Ariel JiménezFriday, February 21, 2020
The following text is an excerpt from the book Jesús Soto in conversation with Ariel Jiménez, published by Fundación Cisneros/Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros in 2017. Jesús Soto was born in Venezuela in 1923 and is well-known for his participation in the development of Kinetic Art in Paris in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as his subsequent involvement in the Geometric Abstraction movements in Venezuela. Soto is recognized today as one of the most important Latin American artists of the twentieth century.
Jesús Soto (JS): The thing is, I knew abstraction existed (don't forget, Otero exhibited his Cafeteras in Caracas before my trip to Paris), but I didn't know how one arrived at it.
I was looking for abstraction, and my thinking was right, except it was thinking from 1910 to 1915, which meant extracting abstraction from Cubism, not inventing an abstraction. I wanted to eliminate the elements to find the true meaning of painting. Of course, I was reading a lot, because my quest was to find what had happened after Cubism. Aimée Battistini helped me greatly in this. Among other things she showed me reflections on abstraction, Mondrian and then Malevich, whom I knew through the magazine Art d'Aujourd'hui. I wondered why and how these artists had reached that point. That's ow I discovered Mondrian's trees and cathedrals, and then understood their evolution toward abstraction. That was when I told myself that, from that point forward, I had to go in that direction. Just as they had reached abstraction through Cubism, I had to start from abstraction in order to move forward. It was also clear to me that what I was doing at that time was not important, because that investigation had already been resolved. My problem was how to go beyond it...
...From there, I put myself through a very conscious study discipline. Coming from an education in drawing, I forced myself to totally abandon representative drawing. It was like eating chickens with the feathers to quell the urge to eat them. Then I began studying the dilemma of abstraction, starting with the artist who, in my opinion, had gone the farthest down that path: Piet Mondrian.
The first thing I tried was to make a dynamic situation out of his compositions, to take them out of their two-dimensionality. I understood that Mondrian had problems with two-dimensionality in the crossing of verticals and horizontals, where vibration occurred. So I told myself that if he had those types of problems, the path could not insist on two-dimensionality and I would have to take it to another dimension.
It was a relatively quick process. I started by making it dynamic with diagonals and curved lines, always on the plane.
Later I realized, when I encountered the Boogie-Woogie paintings, that he had already tried to make them dynamic, to depart from two-dimensionality. When I discovered this, "the Mondrian problem" ceased to exist for me and another process started, this time through music and other artists, like László Moholy-Nagy. He had written an important book on movement, but it was in English, so I had to read it with a friend who translated it for me; every night, we read a part of the book. That was how I came to understand what Moholy-Nagy was looking for in the idea of movement. After the series in which I attempted to make Mondrian dynamic, I made a series of works based on non-drawing concepts, like repetition and progression. I told myself that I could no longer continue to draw impulsively, or with that intuitive freedom of traditional drawing; I thought I had to find a way to work that opposed so-called sensitivity, that I had to change the script, and I found this in repetitive elements.
 Aimée Battistini (1916–89). Venezuelan visual artist from Ciudad Bolívar, of Corican origins. Living in Paris since 1928, she introduced the young Venezuelan founders of Los Disidentes to abstraction. Her support was also important with regard to introducing Soto to the world of abstraction.
 Jesús Soto and his colleagues attended courses and lectures at the Atelier d'Art Abstrait, created in Paris by Jean Dewasne and Edgar Pillet in 1950. The end-of-the-year program announced several lectures on Mondrian and Neoplasticism. The impact of these lectures must have been considerable, because between late 1950 and early 1951, both Otero and Soto went to Holland in search of the work of Piet Mondrian.
 László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946). Artist of Hungarian origins and author of a complex and varied body of work as a painter, sculptor, photographer, filmmaker, set designer, and graphic designer. Professor and theorist of the Bauhaus. His book Vision in Motion, published posthumously in 1947, had a great impact on Soto's work when the artist read it in 1953.