Magazine article Artforum International

Ernesto Neto

Magazine article Artforum International

Ernesto Neto

Article excerpt

BE GENTLE WITH THE EDGES OF THE WORLD read the sign that greeted visitors as they entered Ernesto Neto's recent exhibition, whose subtitle was precisely "The Edges of the World." Several more such signs reminding viewers to be gentle with this or that would be encountered as one wandered between the walls and under the ceilings constructed using Neto's signature stretchy translucent nylon that made up much of this show, which felt more like a multipart installation than a grouping of separate works. Of course, the injunction was to some extent a reflection of the fact that although Neto has long since abandoned the look-but-don't-touch aesthetic of the traditional art museum, his work can't be treated roughly; it reflects sensitivity and demands the same. Still, I couldn't help remembering when I got a kitten for my then three-year-old daughter. Her affection for the new pet could sometimes be overenthusiastic, and I would have to remind her: "Be gentle!" As Neto has acknowledged, his work appeals to kids and to the inner child in some adults, but he is also wary of being seen as not entirely serious: "Many people talk about my work as being 'fun,' but I don't think it's really about that. Sometimes it's true that you have a lot of children jumping from here to there in a piece of mine and so it seems that way, but when there are no children it's easier to see, perhaps, that my work is about time, having time to breathe and think."

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Neto has a point, but there was no getting around the fact that his exhibition had a funfair atmosphere whose charm could quickly pall if you weren't in the mood to use your critical faculties gently, or maybe just if you didn't come prepared with a bathing suit for the pool he had installed on one of the Hayward's terraces, [H.sub.2]O-[S. …

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