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>> Landscape Painting in the Deutsche Bank Collection
>> Second nature: Landscape and Photography
>> Ernesto Neto: Journeys into Inner Landscapes
>> Land Art: Breaking of the Art Space

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Journeys Into Inner Landscapes:
Ernesto Neto's Sensuous Spacial Sculptures



Visitors are allowed to enter the oversized, seemingly organic objects of the Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto, to smell them, try them on and wear them, sit on them - to experience themselves in response to the art. Maria Morais on the artist from the Deutsche Bank Collection, whose art biotopes invite the public on a journey between macrocosm and microcosm.




The slow pace of the body that skin is, 2004
©Max Hetzler Gallery, Berlin

Amorphous carpet landscapes shimmer in pink; protuberances grow high out of their surfaces, like termite hills. On the grey floor of Berlin's Max Hetzler Gallery, Ernesto Neto's installations resemble artificial organisms whose dynamics are born out of the contrast between opposites: outside and inside, heavy and light, amorphous and clearly delineated. The slow pace of the body that skin is (2004), the title of the work, refers directly to the Brazilian artist's imaginative world, revealing a dark pleasure in playing with sensuous forms and strict conceptual considerations. The imposing scale of the floor sculpture, which measures 33 feet in one part and rises up in the middle to human height, underscores the fundamental elements of Neto's work, which seeks to investigate the relationship between body and space in ever-changing variations.


Nave Noiva, Blop (Bride nave, Blop), 1998
Installation view, Sydney Biennial
Photo: Christopher Snee

Neto's room-sized sculptures, such as Nave Noiva, Blop, shown in 1998 at the Sydney Biennial, or the work ÔBicho, which could be seen at the 2001 Biennale in Venice, can frequently be entered; they aim to expand the viewer's sensory and aesthetic experience. ÔBicho (The Animal) is clearly reminiscent of a utopian fantasy world whose landscape is determined by organic forms, proliferating growths, and transparent woven structures. The viewer enters Neto's sculptures as though he were entering inside a gigantic organism. Associations to Richard Fleischer's science fiction classic Fantastic Voyage (1965) come to mind, in which a team of researchers journey inside the human body in a submarine. Adventurous scenes from the film seem to resonate in the grossly magnified human organs of Neto's room-sized sculptures, such as the ear, heart, or lung.

O Bicho (The animal), 2001 Installation view,
Arsenale exhibition,
Venice Biennial,
Photo: Eduardo Ortega


In general, the involvement with design and form plays a recurrent role in his works. So, too, in his collection of Humanóides , a series of 21 different white-colored sculptures filled with Styrofoam balls and spices; shown in 2002 in the Cologne Kunstverein, they seemed to populate the museum, scattered strangely, like living beings.

At first glance, the presentation in the exhibition space, also entirely white, calls one of Verner Panton's futurist living landscapes of the Swinging Sixties to mind. This bent for the artistic utopias of social reorganization is highly typical for the Rio de Janeiro-based artist. Confronted with the realities of a mega-city whose cultural and social diversity also carries an extraordinary explosive power, his work investigates the various states of human interaction: "I hope that art comes closer to people in general, and not just the specialists. I hope that it's capable of filling the huge emptiness in humanity these days."


When people speak to much,
I hide myself under my skin, 2004
©Max Hetzler Gallery, Berlin


In a formal sense, Neto has found a language that he implements like a director of the subconscious; his backdrop is the landscape of modern man's soul. In tandem with the growing scale of his sculptures, clear boundaries between inside and outside blur: "Diving into the body allowed me to look under the skin. In a sense, this reversal reflects a special characteristic of today's world, in which science and the image, current interpretations of cosmology and biology, as well as photography and video actively affect the world of imagery and reorder the landscape." Touching and diving in are to be understood literally. "Please be gentle with the humanoides," as a sign in the Cologne exhibition admonished; it was meant as an invitation. The viewer was allowed and even expected to penetrate the artificial landscape of the friendly Humanóides, to smell Neto's sculptures, to slip inside them, wear them, sit on them - in short, to experience himself in relation to the art.

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