The bright yellow strings that seemingly hang from thin air on the west side of Broadway, between 155th and 156th Streets, are beckoning you to walk inside! This summer, The Hispanic Society Museum & Library received a long-term loan from the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros of Penetrable, an interactive sculpture by artist Jesús Rafael Soto. Its installation on the museum’s Upper Terrace celebrates the 100-year anniversary of the artist’s birth and the first time a sculpture from Soto’s Penetrables series is being showcased outdoors to be experienced by New York City’s diverse audiences.
Soto, a leader of the kinetic and op art movement from Venezuela, played a major role in the growth of Kinetic Art in Paris during the 1960s. His fascination with physics, geometric abstraction, and human perception resonated with his viewers and patrons, allowing him to fashion such large-scale works as the Penetrables series. His understanding of landscape and interactivity changed the regular viewing experience from a two-way street of separation to one road of connection.
Since its debut in 1990, the yellow “cube” of plastic hoses has journeyed across the Americas, being loaned and viewed for two decades in cities like Los Angeles, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, and more. From afar, the attraction almost resembles a block of silly string, but despite its playful illusion, it was meticulously constructed. This, the final work of Soto career, is made of painted iron, aluminum, and yellow plastic tubes arranged within a steel grid. The strings attached to the “floating” ceiling are the part that people are meant to feel, behold, and experience.
As you navigate through the curtain of tubes, you’re absorbed into the piece, surrounded from all angles by art. Soto’s Penetrables series takes immersion to a new level when viewers within notice that the boundary between the structure and themselves is blurred, and that from the outsider’s perspective, they are the art. The closer one’s body is to the piece, the more you penetrate its silence and stillness, just as the piece itself penetrates the space. You can explore and change it from within, and blend or disturb its opaque form from the exterior.
Although the adventure is a personal experience, it’s also an extension of the artist. Soto’s creation is a nod to his time in our world and part of what made his art so successful in life: people. It symbolizes a universe of relationships from several perspectives as they exist and move through space and time. It was the first piece he created that used his audience as a tool and a collaborator, encouraging active participation. The installation is free to the public and on view at the Hispanic Society Museum & Library until further notice.
Next, read about 10 Must See Art Installations This July