The Penetrable Series, by Jesus Rafael Soto, is an interactive art series where each piece consists of thousands of strands of plastic/fabric hanging from the ceiling; the series represents the idea of “a universe filled with relationships”

The Houston Penetrable

Soto had the goal of immersing the viewer physically as part of the artwork using space; each installation of the Penetrable series is meant to be physically traversed.

People walking through the Houston Penetrable

Some of his installations also make sound since they use hanging metal or PVC pipes. Some have also been used as components, like an ether, for ballets and dance showcases.

Le Mouvement, in Paris, 1955
Alicia Alonso’s ballet Genesis in Cuba, 1978

Some features of this work that we could consider in techniques for kinetic sculpture include considering the driving force of the motion of the fabric (driven by the viewer vs. mechanics), how to engage senses like sound and touch, and using repetition/layering of a single form of fabric.

A subtlety in this work is how Soto wanted to portray man not as a viewer and judger of the space before him, but as a part of and constantly immersed in space. He likened the effect of traversing the Penetrables to being in water, and aimed to evoke feelings of weightlessness and joy as viewers physically feel and become aware of the space around them.

I found a similar work by Jun Igarashi, who made an inflatable playhouse in Japan. The immersive nature of the playhouse and the repetition of bars of inflatable material reminded me of Soto’s Penetrables.

Another related work that reminded me of Soto’s penetrables was “I am a Mountain” by Pia Manniko, who created a rotating cylinder made of overlapping layers of tule with ink drawings on them. The repetitive structure and the way the drawings on the fabric change as you move around the work reminded me of aspects of Soto’s work too.


Soto article:

Soto video:

Jun Igarashi article:

Pia Manniko website: