"It is reassuring to observe the coherence and vitality of these sculptural investigations, firmly rooted in a new tradition that stems from an artistic revolution, but whose consequences are wide open to further exploration."
Frank Popper, 1989
"From the conceptual point of view, Sobrino's polished steel sculptures should also be seen as mirrors. The mirror object, if its physicality alone is taken into account, is nothing more than a piece of metal which, nevertheless, potentially contains the entire visible world. […]
At once simple, prolific and elusive when observed, these totems of modern instability confront the moving spectator with both an object and a phenomenon, restoring plenitude to each perceptive experience."
Matthieu Poirier, 2007
Francisco Sobrino was born in Guadalajara, Spain.
Studied at the Escuela de Arte y Oficios, Madrid, Spain.
Resided in Buenos Aires, Argentina, attended the National School of Fine Arts, and obtained his teaching diploma.
Employed the straightforward language of geometric forms in his works to eliminate any subjective content and to establish a closer relationship between the work and the spectator. Produced two-dimensional works with black-and-white grid-patterned background. Fig.1
Sobrino moved to Paris. Continued his work on progressions and systematic sequences in search of virtual movement. Produced two-dimensional works in oil and gouache. Fig.2 Collages. Broadened his palette (black, white, colors). Fig.3
Executed reliefs based on superposed flat geometrical forms in white, black and colored Plexiglas. Fig.4
Co-founder of the Centre de Recherche d’Art Visuel (Visual Art Research Center) which compared ideas and experiments related to kinetic art of the period. Based on investigatations into visual phenomena, it sought to make spectators interact with the works. The Center organized its first exhibition in his studio in December.
Sobrino began using grey “smoked” transparent Plexiglas to create structures with simple geometrical forms. Superposed and juxtaposed, these gave rise to new forms and, as spectators moved, played on effects of light and space. Each form occupied an undetermined position in space; matter escaped from the reality of its presence. Espaces indéfinis, Transformations instables (Indefinite Spaces. Instable Transformations). Fig.5
The Centre de Recherche d’Art Visuel became the Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel (Visual Art Research Group), also known as the GRAV, whose members included Garcia Rossi, Le Parc, Morellet, Sobrino, Stein and Yvaral. It defined its “Proposals on Movement” in January, took part in the 2nd Paris Biennale, exhibited at the Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris, published its manifesto Enough Mystifications in September, and held an exhibition in October. Sobrino was an active member of the GRAV and would take part in all its events.
Various exhibitions on the theme of “Instability”, the collective exhibition “Arte Programmata” in Milan, Venice and Rome. Meetings and debates about similar investigations gave rise to the idea of an international movement called “New Tendencies”. The exhibition “Art-Spectacle” in Paris brought together other groups of creative artists: musicians, poets, painters, etc.
Sobrino began working on Structures permutationnelles (Permutational Structures) in aluminum. Fig.6 Model for an open-air sculpture in Sarcelles, France.
He took part in various GRAV shows in Italy and in the 3rd Paris Biennale (“L’Instabilité – Le Labyrinthe”).
Used mirror polished steel in Structures permutationnelles (Permutational Structures). His investigations were the same as in the works in Plexiglas. The mirror effect caused interference between the work and its surrounding environment: forms, movement and light were incorporated and reflected; the work integrated itself into its surroundings, thus creating virtual images that were constantly reconstructed as spectators moved. Over the years, Sobrino would produce several architectural works based on this principle.
His concern for incorporating spectator participation into his works led him to create playful, modular works in motion: the spectator moved a form and this impulse was transmitted via springs to other forms, producing a series of uncontrolled movements. Pulsations Fig.7
Sobrino and the GRAV helped organize the “New Tendencies” exhibition and made another labyrinth. Fig.8
Incorporated electric light and mechanical movement into his works. Oppositions indéfinies, Rotations opposées (Indefinite Oppositions, Opposite Rotations). Fig.9 Déplacements bleus, verts (Blue, Green Displacements).
Sobrino produced his first architectural sculpture in stainless steel, Structure permutationnelle (Permutational Structure),in Sarcelles, France. Fig.10
The GRAV published Stop Art and presented another labyrinth in New York. Sobrino took part in the 4th Paris Biennale and installed a games room in a theater forum.
Pursued his work on light and real and virtual movement. Fig.11
Took part in “A Day in the Street”, organized by the GRAV, and in the exhibition “Kunst Licht Kunst,” at the Eindhoven Museum, Netherlands, in a space with two entrances, divided by a two-way mirror, playing on transparency, reflection, multiplication and the active participation of spectators, who simultaneously acted as animated components.
Continued making works based on the transmission of movement. Programmed mechanical movement was included in Déplacements linéaires (Linear Displacements). The GRAV presented “Parcours de volume variable” in Paris.
The GRAV installed a games room called “A la recherche d’un nouveau spectateur” (“In Search of a New Spectator”) at the Museum Ostwall, Dortmund (Germany).
Dissolution of the GRAV in November.
Dissolution of the GRAV in November. Fig.12
Sobrino introduced random movement in works composed of spheres held together by a metallic structure on a fulcrum: Libres dans le vent (Free as the Wind).Created Jeu d’échecs (Chess Set). Fig.13
Sobrino designed the costumes for Françoise Adret’s ballet Requiem, set to music by Ligeti, at the Théâtre Contemporain de Grenoble, France. Fig.14The designs were based on a three-color combination; each dancer wore a dominant color that gradually interacted with the others.
Began making twisting sculptures, first in Plexiglas, then in bronze, and later in stainless steel. Fig.15. Executed other architectural works.
The random movement seen in Libres dans le vent was further explored in a mobile made in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands (height: 1200 cm). Fig.16
As part of his research into light and color, he experimented with stained glass: Mur lumineux (Luminous Wall, 200 x 1200 cm), Palais des Congrès, Paris, France. Fig.17
Investigated solar energy with a view to incorporating it into his works. Produced mosaic murals in French towns: Vitré (650 x 650 cm), Broons (640 x 175 cm) Rostrenem (1100 x 1100 cm). Fig.18
Designed and built a Kinetic Bank for the offices of the Banco Exterior de EspanainGuadalajara, Spain. Fig.19
Used solar cells to produce his first renewable energy sculpture. Fig.20
Made large-scale sculptures and reliefs in black and white Plexiglas. Fig.21
Executed a two-piece architectonic sculpture composed of modular elements, twisted in opposite directions, in painted white iron (height: 2000 cm), Madrid Zaragossa Motorway, km 54, Spain. Fig.22
Studies and projects involving light beams, Formes spatiales cinético-lumineuses (Spatial Kinetic Light Forms), with a view to creating pyramids of light in Paris, Seville, Guadalajara, and Madrid. Fig.23 Use of cylindrical rays of visually homogeneous, white light outlining a luminous mobile structure visible at night within a radius of 25 km.
His 20-meter-long, floating Relief articulé (Articulated Relief) on the Orinoco River was part of the Ephemeral Art Biennale in Venezuela, demonstrating the progressive interaction of its articulated black and white forms, joined in the middle by a cable. The water caused a wavelike movement and the work moved briefly along the river. Once the cable uniting the forms had been cut, it came apart and drifted down the river until it disappeared completely under the water, thus justifying the name of the event for which it had been made. Fig.24
Sobrino’s activities focused on public places for which he designed games, playful, ephemeral works and floating forms called Environments. Took part in workshops and seminars.
Sobrino returned to a play of light and shadow on white in modular works in pressed paper or Plexiglas: Torsions opposées, Blanc sur blanc (Opposing Torsion, White on White). Fig.25
Designed a workshop “Artes Plàsticos,” IDEA, Caracas University, Venezuela.
Designed a workshop “Proposiciones creativas,” Circulo de Bellas Artes, Madrid, Spain.
Graphic works, collages, reliefs, in which optical modulations and contrasting colors revealed their links with Op’Art.
Created a structure in colorless transparent Plexiglas, Lumière-couleur (Color Light). The projection of its juxtaposed forms exposed to daylight caused a prismatic effect that changed as spectators moved around it.
Sobrino pursued his investigations into problems related to reflection, refraction and dispersion of light and researched spatial lumino-kinetic forms. Executed a sculpture Fuente de luz (Fountain of Light) in transparent Plexiglas (240 x 80 x 120 cm), Guadalajara, Spain. Fig.26
Sobrino again focused on stained glass and produced works in glass, paper and acrylic paint. Fig.27
Retrospective exhibition 1958-1998, Guadalajara, Spain, with temporary installation of sculpture along the main street of the city Fig.28 and a labyrinth made up of 64 cubes measuring 80 x 80 x 80 cm in eight colors which spectators could walk through. The continuity of the range of colors on each side was respected, so that colors were not repeated one next to another.
Produced architectural works in Spain: major road Madrid-Cuenca, Fig.29 Alicante, Valencia.
The series dating from 1958-59 were completed by computer. Fig.30
The Labyrinth,a project proposed to Guadalajara in 1998, was mounted at the Conservatoire des Ocres, Roussillon, France. Fig.31
Foundation of the Francisco Sobrino Museum in Guadalajara, Spain. The opening of the museum, which is currently being built, is scheduled for late 2013. Fig.32
Nombreuses expositions, œuvres monumentales et intégrations architecturales en Espagne et en France. Poursuite du travail sur le noir et blanc.
Exposition Dynamo, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris.
Francisco Sobrino died on 10 th May in Bernay, France.