It is imperative that the works of Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto (born 1964, lives in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) be experienced individually. They can be entered into, touched, even smelled and heard. Neto usually creates works for a specific space; his stretch fabric sculptures are integrated into the existing architecture. When viewed from outside, they appear to be huge sculptures, when entered into they open up whole new spaces and one risks getting lost inside them like in a labyrinth. What may seem astonishing in view of the unusual materials he utilises is that the artist is actually exploring the classical issues of sculpture: space, volume, gravity, mass and light are the cornerstones of his artistic deliberations. Visually his works are ingeniously designed, creating a new impression of volume and weight and altering the light in and around the sculptures.
With his sculptures Ernesto Neto not only reacts to the given circumstances and the architecture, but also includes human behaviour. Forces become tangible, heaviness and lightness assume a physical presence. The flimsy sculptures made of stretch stocking fabric appeal to all our senses; they may be touched and walked on, as they can only be experienced fully through interaction. Many of his works contain different spices which in addition to visual and haptic also trigger sensorial perceptions. Other creations can be literally donned by the visitors with the result that, once completely enclosed by them, they can experience their bodies, mass, and movement anew. These abstract works are always related to the human body by way of their form and material: amorphous shapes merge like cells; fabrics separate different spaces like membranes. The soft, organic forms inspire us to see the artworks as autonomous creatures full of poetry and humour.
A work by Ernesto Neto was already on show at the Kunsthalle in the group exhibition “Raumkörper. Netze und andere Gebilde” (2000); last year, the artist also featured prominently on the Brazilian pavilion at the Venice Biennale. In the installation he has developed specially for the Oberlichtsaal in the Kunsthalle, light and its sculpturing features come to the fore much more so than in his earlier works. The spaces enclosed in fabric group to form a freely hovering construct that is permeated by air and light. The visitors are invited to wander around this soft and poetic world of organic forms and gain new sensorial impressions through a direct interaction that changes how the sculpture, the museum space, and their own bodies are perceived.
An exhibition catalogue with texts by Elisabeth Schlebrügge and Peter Pakesch is available in German and English published by Schwabe Verlag.