Zurich - 31 October 2009 - 23 December 2009
Following a number of international solo exhibitions (at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, the Festival d'Automne at the Paris Panthéon, the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, etc.), the Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto (*1964, Rio de Janeiro) presents his work for the second time at the Bob van Orsouw Gallery.
This year Ernesto Neto has aroused a great deal of attention with his monumental walk-in installation "Anthropodino" at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. The exhibition exemplarily represented the sculptural concept of the "nave", which the artist has repeatedly invoked over several years. With the Spanish word for ship - "nave" - Neto paraphrases his sculptures that are hung from the ceiling and made up of fabric: stretchable and partly transparent sheaths that are then freighted with different materials. The resulting biomorphic shape conforms to the substances filled into the mobile cocoons as well as to an interaction with the law of gravity. Neto's engagement with the medium of sculpture cumulates in thoughts of immersion. The viewer is meant to experience the works in multi-sensory dimensions by an all-out submergence in the sculptures, by entering and touching them. Along with this tactile experience, the sense of smell is addressed when Neto deploys different spices as filling for the sculptural contrivances.
Ernesto Neto's sculptures fill entire rooms and take them over completely by implanting a new, quasi-architectural structure within them. The environments that thus come about, which make do without right angles or static structures, mime organic landscapes or resemble fantasy dwellings. Their forms call up associations that oscillate between futuristic settings, a stalactite cave or a microscopically enlarged cell. The anthropomorphism of Neto's works likewise recalls that of different bodily shapes and sizes. The flexible material that the artist often uses resembles the organic nature of skin. In contrast to the fragile and stretchy fabric is his use of materials with contrary qualities, such as lead or iron with which Neto sometimes stuffs the movable sheaths.
Neto's central focus on the medium of sculpture encompasses the meaning of figure and volume, colors, surfaces and materials, but just as much reflects the physical forces of gravity and inertia. In continuing traditional discourses, Neto forges a link to the art-historical line of major positions of Brazilian art, such as that of Lygia Clark or Hélio Oiticica. Not only the history or art offers reference points to Neto's work, but also the history of architecture. Thus, for example, in his "Bekleidungstheorie" (theory of clothes), the architect Gottfried Semper designated fabric as architecture's primal material. At this point, Friedrich Kiesler's unrealized concept of the "Endless House" likewise deserves mention. While a reception of Neto's work requires physical access as a central aspect, philosophical and transcendental questions are frequently and thematically touched on. Thus the "nave" in Neto's symbolic cosmos is not least of all a symbol of the human body, subject to nature's physical laws and simultaneously a haven for the soul, that is, directed both inwards and out.