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Indepth Arts News:

"Directions - Ernesto Neto"
2002-03-21 until 2002-06-23
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Washington, DC, USA

Directions – Ernesto Neto, featuring a large, amoeba-like sculpture suspended from the ceiling by the contemporary Brazilian artist (b. 1964), opens on Thursday, March 21, at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Independence Avenue at Seventh Street S.W. The show continues through June 23 on the museum's third floor. Neto, whose large fabric sculptures and participatory environments have received increasing international attention over the past few years, will discuss his new work made especially for the Directions gallery on March 21 at 12:30 p.m. Joining the artist for this on-site talk will be Olga Viso, the museum’s curator of contemporary art and the exhibition organizer.

Neto's sculptures and installations are indeed singular in contemporary art, says curator Viso. His works, which he describes as a 'kind of body/space/landscape,' not only arrest us visually but also make us keenly aware of the spaces inside, around and between our bodies. We become voyagers in sensorial odysseys.

Measuring 45 by 15 feet, the soft, hovering sculpture almost completely fills the Directions gallery. The artist's project, composed of two overlapping tiers, one raised high and the other dangling lower, suggests biological forms, an architectural shelter or space-age design. His basic material is off-white, translucent Lycra -- a textile typically used for women's hosiery -- stuffed with more than 1000 cubic feet of tiny Styrofoam pellets. 

Neto was born and educated in Rio de Janeiro, which remains his home. His mother, a landscape designer, introduced him to ideas relating to the therapeutic potential of art prevalent in Brazil in the 1970s and developed by conceptual artists Hélio Oiticica (1937-1980) and Lygia Clark (1920-1988). Their groundbreaking work of the 1960s sought to transform behavior by engaging the senses and representing the body in abstract ways. The modernist sculpture of Constantin Brancusi and Alexander Calder, modern ballet, astronomy and quantum mechanics, and Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey also spurred Neto's vision early in his career.

By the early 1990s, Neto evolved a distinct sculptural idiom. His early works included hand-held objects and suspended polyp-shapes created by filling Lycra with lead or Styrofoam pellets, or aromatic spices, such as lavender, clove and tumeric. In 1998, the artist made his first fabric rooms, stretching membranes of Lycra tulle from gallery walls, ceilings and floors and inviting barefoot visitors to enter into and pass through cavities that evoke the womb, interiors of churches, and sailing vessels or spaceships. During the late 1990s, Neto added soft huggable monoliths to his repertoire of body-scaled forms. 

In 2001, Neto's installations were featured in the Brazilian Pavilion and international group show at the Venice Biennale; BodySpace at the Baltimore Museum of Art; and the Guggenheim Museum’s traveling show of Brazilian art through the ages, Brazil: Body and Soul. Elsewhere in the United States, Neto has had solo exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University (2000); SITE Santa Fe, New Mexico (2000); and the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (1999). His work was also showcased at the Carnegie International 1999/2000 in Pittsburgh.

Ernesto Neto
Dropin Fly, (1999).
Courtesy the artist.

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