Born to a working class family in Guadalajara, Spain, Francisco Sobrino began his studies of painting and sculpture at the School of Arts and Crafts in Madrid, between 1946 and 1948. He moved to Argentina in 1949, and studied at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires from 1950 to 1957. During this period, he met many of the artists and writers involved with the Arte Concreto-Invención group, and he began working in geometric abstraction. At the Escuela de Bellas Artes, he also met Hugo Demarco, Julio Le Parc, and Horacio Garcia Rossi. In 1959, Sobrino moved to Paris with Le Parc, where they co-founded the Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel (GRAV). In 1960, Sobrino began making reliefs and then three-dimensional constructions from transparent, tinted acrylic plastic. These works were the first of his explorations of juxtaposition and superimposition between the viewer and the work of art. In 1965, his work was included in The Responsive Eye exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York.

In their 1966 manifesto, GRAV’s members write, “We are particularly interested in the proliferation of works which permit a variety of situations, whether they engender a strong visual excitement, or demand a move on the part of the spectator, or contain in themselves a principle of transformation, or whether they call for active participation from the spectator.” Light and movement were of special interest to the artists of GRAV, but they were careful to avoid using these as ends in themselves. Instead, light and movement were ways of modifying a particular environment and creating an unexpected situation, to which audience members could respond. The group hoped that such interactive works might lead to a social movement, based around collective experience and viewer participation. After numerous group exhibitions throughout Europe, GRAV separated in 1968.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Sobrino continued his research into light, using solar energy with the help of solar panels. He also developed his work with modular units, which allow the viewer to change the sculpture’s form. He continued using Plexiglas, noting, “The use of Plexiglas gives birth to manifold plays of light having to do with transparency and reflects like polished steel, which is an excellent mirror, a kind of very interesting virtual reality.” In 1971, he worked on sets and costumes for the ballet Requiem, by Ligeti, performed at the Theatre contemporain de Grenoble. In 1979, he completed his architectural designs for a bank in Guadalajara, Spain. “The first kinetic architecture in the world,” the bank was designed in black and white, with projections on the floors, staircases, and walls; it was later destroyed.

Sobrino continued his consistent creative exploration of the relationships between science and art, through kinetic, optical, and geometric projects throughout his career. In 2008, work on the Francisco Sobrino Museum was begun in Guadalajara, Spain. Sobrino’s work has been shown extensively in international museums and collections, and he completed several important architectural commissions in Europe and in Latin America.


“…using geometrical forms enabled me to understand what I was doing, it helped me to tell things in a clear language. I wanted to create a kind of alphabet of elementary and impersonal forms, with which I could build sentences. I still have the same desire: to be clear.”

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2015:Un tournant/A turning point: Antonio Asis, Martha Boto, Horacio García Rossi, Hugo de Marziani, Francisco Sobrino, Gregorio Vardanega, Sicardi Gallery, Houston, TX, USA 2014:Francisco Sobrino: Structure & Transformation, Sicardi Gallery, Houston, TX, USA 2013: Dynamo, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, France

2009: North Looks South: Building the Latin American Art Collection, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), Houston, TX, USA

2007: Op Art, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, Germany

Los Cinéticos, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain

2006: Lichtkunst aus Kunstlicht, Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologies, Karlsruhe, Germany

2004: Square, Monart Museum, Ashod, Israel

2002: 6-1=6 [Hommage à Jean-Pierre Yvaral par le GRAV], Johnson & Johnson, Paris, France

Noir et Blanc, Couleur, Galerie Lélia Mordoch, Paris, France

1999: Art construit /Art cinétique d'Amérique latine, Galerie Denise René, Paris, France

1998: Retrospective Monumental Sculpture Exhibition, Guadalajara, Spain

1995: Blanco Sobre Blanco, Museo de Arte Moderno - Fundación Jesús Soto, Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela

1972: XXXVI Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy

1970: XIe Salon Grands et Jeunes d’Aujourd’hui”, Les Halles, Paris, France

1969: Tenth Biennale de la Sculpture en Plein Air, Antwerp, Belgium

1968: Galerie Denise René, Paris, France

Plus by Minus, Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, USA

Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel, Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund, Germany

XXIV Triennale di Milano, Italy

Op Kunst, Kunstnersnes Hus, Oslo, Norway

Cinétisme, Espace, Environnement, Maison de la Culture, Grenoble, France

1967 : Galería Grises, Bilbao, Spain

Vom Konstruktivismus zur Kinetik, 1917 bis 1967, Galerie Denise René-Hans Mayer, Krefeld, Germany

Lumière et Mouvement, Art cinétique à Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France

VI Biennale d’Arte Repubblica di San Marino, Repubblica di San Marino

Ve Biennale de Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France

1966: Kunst Licht Kunst, Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Weiss auf Weiss, Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland

Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel, Gallery Indica, London, Great Britain

International Kinetic Show, Galerie Ad Libitum, Antwerp, Belgium

1965: Art and Mouvement, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel

The Responsive Eye, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

IVe Biennale de Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France

Licht und Bewegung – Kinetische Kunst – Lumière et Mouvement, Kunsthalle Bern; Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels; Kunstverein Düsseldorf; Tvenster Rotterdam

Kinetic and Optic Art Today, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy & Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, USA

1964: Le Mouvement 2, Galerie Denise René, Paris, France

Documenta 3, Kassel, Germany

1963: Instabilité, Festival international de Films Expérimentaux, Knokke-le-Zoute, Casino, Belgium

La Inestabilidad, GRAV, Museo Nacional de Bella Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Galerie Aujourd’hui, Brussels, Belgium (with Julio Le Parc and Yvaral)

1962: Anti-peinture, Hessenhuis, Antwerp, Belgium

L’instabilité, Maison des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France

GRAV, Galleria del Gruppo “Enne”, Padova, Italy

L’instabilité, Gallery The Contemporaries, New York, NY, USA

Arte programmata, Negozio Olivetti, Milan, Italy

Art spectacle, Galerie socio-expérimentale, Paris, France

Konstruktivisten, Städtisches Museum Leverkusen, Schloss Morsbroich, Germany

1961: Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel, Galerie Denise René, Paris, France

Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel, Atelier du GRAV, Paris, France

1960: Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel, Atelier du GRAV, Paris, France

1956: Il Salón Estímulo de Artes Plásticas, Ministerio de Educación de Argentina, Argentina

Selected Public Collections

Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, NY, USA

Beacon Collection, Boston, MA, USA

Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France

Centre National d’Art Plastique, Paris, France

Colección del Parlamento Provincial, Guadalajara, Spain

Fondazione Peggy Guggenheim, Venice, Italy

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., USA

Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Cholet, France

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Bilbao, Spain

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Madrid, Spain

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Villafanes, Spain

Museo de Arte Moderno, Alicante, Spain

Museo de Arte Moderno - Fundación Jesús Soto, Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela

Museo de la Escultura Monumental al Aire Libre, Madrid, Spain

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), Houston, TX, USA

Peter Stuyvesant Foundation, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Tate Gallery, London, Great Britain

Tel Aviv Museum, Israel