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Please Touch the Art! A “Houston Penetrable” Primer April 23, 2014

By Kerry Ingram
Tags: museum, houston, mfah, summer, and, the

Houston Penetrable 2

Jesús Rafael Soto, Houston Penetrable, 2004–14, lacquered aluminum structure, PVC tubes, and water-based silkscreen ink, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund. © Estate of Jesús Rafael Soto. Used by permission. Photograph © The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Thomas R. DuBrock, photographer.

Jesús Rafael Soto, Houston Penetrable, 2004–14, lacquered aluminum structure, PVC tubes, and water-based silkscreen ink, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund. © Estate of Jesús Rafael Soto. Used by permission. Photo by Carrithers Studio.

Jesús Rafael Soto, Houston Penetrable, 2004–14, lacquered aluminum structure, PVC tubes, and water-based silkscreen ink, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund. © Estate of Jesús Rafael Soto. Used by permission. Photo by Carrithers Studio.

Museum preparators install the first section of Jesús Rafael Soto’s Houston Penetrable in Cullinan Hall, designed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Jesús Rafael Soto, Houston Penetrable, 2004–14, lacquered aluminum structure, PVC tubes, and water-based silkscreen ink, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund. © Estate of Jesús Rafael Soto. Used by permission.

Museum preparators install Jesús Rafael Soto’s Houston Penetrable in Cullinan Hall.

Museum preparators install Jesús Rafael Soto’s Houston Penetrable in Cullinan Hall.

Jesús Rafael Soto, Houston Penetrable (interior view of central section), 2004–14, lacquered aluminum structure, PVC tubes, and water-based silkscreen ink, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund. © Estate of Jesús Rafael Soto. Used by permission.

Jesús Rafael Soto in one of his Penetrables in 1975. 

This summer, the Museum’s Cullinan Hall is teeming with 24,000 hand-painted PVC strands, each two stories high, filling 2,600 square feet of gallery space. And you are invited to walk right into them.

Not sure what to expect when you enter the Museum and see Soto: The Houston Penetrable, a monumental installation eight years in the making? Here’s a quick rundown.

What is the Houston Penetrable?
The completed installation consists of thousands of strands suspended from a grid on Cullinan Hall’s ceiling. The strands are transparent and yellow, with the hand-painted strands creating the shape and volume of a yellow ellipse. Walk into it and touch the strands as much as you want. Your presence completes the work, which is meant to transform the way you think of and experience the space around you.

This isn’t the last time you’ll see the Houston Penetrable, either—the Museum plans to bring it back on a regular basis.

Has the Museum shown this before?
No, this is the first time the Museum is displaying this particular Penetrable, though you may have seen a test run late last year on a small section of grid in Cullinan Hall. You might also remember a smaller, related work—an all-yellow Penetrable—on view between 2004 and 2006 outside of the Caroline Wiess Law Building.

What are you supposed to do with it?
Immerse yourself in the sea of strands. Play. Walk slowly and feel the strands fall across you. Snap photos and share with the #SotoSummer hashtag. The Penetrable is intended to open your eyes to the world around you—so explore!