521 West 21st Street
Apr. 14-May 25, 2012
The Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto (b. 1964) is celebrated for large, participatory installations that are sensational -- literally, as his attenuated biomorphic forms are made of nylon and filled with aromatic spices. For his new show at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, he has shifted gears a bit, turning to hand-woven crocheted objects that hang, sway and stretch rather like bulbous hammocks, inviting a viewer’s touch.
Immersive art experiences are the hallmark of a Brazilian esthetic pioneered by artists like Helio Oiticica and Lygia Clark, and here Neto achieves an easy, beatific island feeling -- the sculptures resemble underwater coral, or the strange kinds of sea creatures that might be snagged in a fisherman’s nets, dripping from the ceiling like odd stalactives or protruding from the wall. Soundway (2012) literally obstructs the gallery’s entrance and forces patrons to shimmy through it, setting the tone for the show. Once inside, visitors are prompted to remove their shoes by friendly on-site “guards” -- gallerinas in ballet flats who stand in the corner reading their books. The entrances to these woven mazes open seductively, so narrow they force you down on your knees.
Neto’s weavings have a hint of the gothic, too, as the parabolic sinews of rope are bat-like, and spider-webby in their symmetry. If you haven’t felt physically engaged with a work of art for some time, this might be your chance. Small sculptures that sit on the floor are priced between $24,000 and $38,000 and larger installations are in the $150,000-$300,000 range.