This week the Museum of Fine Arts Houston unveils the long awaited Houston Penetrable, an immersive installation by Venezuelan artist Jesús Rafael Soto (1923-2005) which has been a long time coming. The work was commissioned by the MFAH in 2004 and, with the help of Architect Paolo Carrozzino and producer Walter Pellevoisi, in partnership with the Museum and Atelier Soto, Paris, has finally come to fruition. The piece is made up of thousands of strands of plastic tubing that have been hand-painted and hand-tied to a rigging that allows the strands to hang down from the museum ceiling, two stories up, into Cullinan Hall, creating a penetrable wall/room/place. The painted parts of the tubing are arranged to create the image of a floating orb, the eye towards which the audience is meant to gravitate, one assumes. It sounds a bit like Martin Creed’s big room of balloons, minus the claustrophobia but + a keen risk of entanglement.
Like so much art of the last few decades, the work isn’t really complete until it has been “touched, handled and waded through”—activated by the groping masses, a metaphor for the power of human connection, art or entertainment, depending on your view.
The opening celebration—wherein you can “be one of the first to immerse yourself,” like the great undoing of a vestal virgin—takes place THURSDAY night, MAY 8 during Happy Hour Thursday, 6-8 pm. On Saturday, May 10, join the “Installation Art” gallery talk, and create your own interpretation of the work at the “Sketching Soto” activity, when you’ll try not to think of Niki de Saint Phalle’s Nana.