Ernesto Neto

A Contemporary Woman

24 July - 26 Sep 2004

The event Lustwarande 04, organized by Fundament, will take place this fall (August 15 – October 17) under the title Disorientation by Beauty. In the historic wooded surroundings of De Oude Warande, located on the outskirts of Tilburg, twenty-eight artists from within the Netherlands and abroad will be showing mainly new work. During the early eighteenth century, De Oude Warande was landscaped according to a baroque design involving a maze-like pattern of paths.

Among the participating artists are three whose work is also part of De Pont’s collection: Rob Birza, Anish Kapoor and Marc Mulders. And until September 26 the Michel François exhibition Déjà Vu can also be seen at De Pont.

The theme of the event seems to relate particularly to the work of Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto (Rio de Janeiro, 1964). Within the context of Lustwarande 04 Neto will be creating new installations for both De Oude Warande and De Pont. With this De Pont will be acting as a host for Fundament and forming a ‘satallite’ for Lustwarande 04.

Ernesto Neto has become known internationally by way of his installations consisting of all sorts of amorphous forms made of synthetic fabrics such as nylon and polyamide. By stretching the fabric tautly, allowing it to bulge or become slack, he creates an organic space in which the ‘skin’ and the shape of the image acquire a physical presence. The great sensory and sensual quality of the work is brought about by the softness of materials and strong associations with body shapes and suggestive cavities and curves.

At the end of the eighties, Neto began to produce work in which he combined different (soft and hard) materials. A characteristic of that work is the inherent tension of weight and balance. He allowed, for instance, heavy iron rods to lean against soft rubber balls (BarBall 1987) and filled nylon ‘socks’ with lead pellets in order to create forms that lay in the space like strange groups of polyps (Copulonia, 1989). In 1994 Neto produced a series of photographs of his own face, which he had bound up tightly with thread (M.E.D.I.T.). His face is distorted due to the tension of the thread; after this is cut loose with a scissors, a deep impression remains visible on his skin. With this work Neto places himself in a tradition of ‘body-art’ works, which include those of fellow Brazilian Sônia Andrade. In a subsequent series of works, Neto uses a cotton cord to outline a drawing on the ground. In Janus Fetus (1995) the cord forms the silhouette of a fetus, and the ends of this cord are connected with two lead casts of his own head. 

Then there emerge installations with peculiar socks, stockings and sacks filled with various ground spices and pigments. Sometimes the nylon stockings stretch, like elongated forms, from the ceiling to the floor, seemingly anchored by the weight of their contents. Because the artist allows the filled synthetic sacks to drop to the floor from a certain height, radiant circles of pigment powder take shape (Poff, 1996-1997). The contents include black pepper, saffron, tumeric, cumin seed, clove and graphite: materials that have a distinct color or odor, but also ones that bring to mind colonial trade. To some, these works may be reminiscent of the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica (1937-1980), who made use of spices and pigments in his work. 

Since the late nineties Ernesto Neto has been producing room-size installations with sheets of synthetic material. These are stretched across the space, dividing it into a labyrinthine structure of inner and outer forms that can be entered and walked around, concave and convex spaces with soft and sensual contours (The Garden of Delights, 1997 and Nave Ovulo, 1998).

With a recent installation at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, the announcement read: “Working on the basis of traditional sculptural principles, Neto manages to create spaces that literally invite the viewer to enter. The organic spaces of semitransparent and swaying fabric not only yield a heightened sensory experience, but also provoke experiences that have to do with the relationship between body and mind. Certain psychological processes become almost physically palpable. Entirely in the tradition of illustrious Brazilian artists such as Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark, Ernesto Neto shows his concern for experimental forms of perception.