Ernesto Neto: Slow iis goood: Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York
By lifting us off the ground, to float between the floor and the ceiling, Neto offers us a space in which we can slow down, breathe, and rest.
For his exhibition Slow iis goood, Ernesto Neto presents a series of vibrantly colored installations of crocheted polypropylene and polyester cord that hang from the ceiling, hovering several feet above the ground. These new works continue Neto’s practice of using gravity, weight, and tension to dictate form as plastic balls in different shades provide a counterweight for the crocheted sheets. Stretching the crocheted membranes taut, the balls form a floor for the labyrinthine, tunnel-like structures of alluring color and inviting texture that the gallery visitor is meant to enter and explore.
Crochet has become an important part of Neto’s formal vocabulary over the last two years, and the artist has translated this craft traditionally done by women on a small, delicate scale to structures of massive proportions. The basic units of crochet, string and knots, serve as Neto’s paint and his paintbrush, with the gallery as his canvas. Like giant paintings that the visitor is invited to climb into and move through, the installations provide an opportunity to experience the gallery space from the inside of the artwork itself. Looking out through a screen of colors— oranges and grays, greens and purples, blues and yellows—the viewer’s perspective is reoriented, as the boundary between artwork and visitor is blurred. While breaking down the barriers between installation and viewer, these new works simultaneously propose a change in our relationship to time. By lifting us off the ground, to float between the floor and the ceiling, Neto offers us a space in which we can slow down, breathe, and rest.
Although these are spaces meant for relaxation, they are created through a meticulous, labor- intensive process. Each element is hand crocheted from multicolored strings that the artist combines from a wide-ranging spectrum of threads. The intense, subtle, and sophisticated juxtapositions of color that Neto chooses are then woven together into a single strand, and knotted into circular units that combine to become the walls of the sculptures. The irregular circles of crochet that compose the nets simultaneously resemble cells seen through a microscope, and a network of constellations unfurled across the sky. Here, the inside and the outside universe are represented in the same form, demonstrating the interconnectivity of life.
Not only do the works resemble and reference natural, organic matter, they also incorporate it: the installation in the main space upstairs includes, stones, plants, and spices. These natural materials serve as a kind of landscape for the main structure of the installation, which itself resembles an amoeba-like animal floating in space. The fusion of figure and ground, or animal and landscape, is a central part of Neto’s practice. Just as his work blurs the boundary between artwork and viewer, inviting the visitor to inhabit and experience it on a visceral, primal level, it also draws no distinction between types of life—we are all a part of the natural world.
All installation images above: Photo by Jean Vong