Large-scale installations featuring brightly colored fabric that resembles a Dr. Seuss rendition of stalactites: this is what comes to mind when I think about Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto. When I was in college, he was always someone that students would bring up as an artist that they favored. I was never a big fan, instead considering his pieces to be a bit flamboyant without enough conceptual edge. Yet when I heard he was exhibiting work at Galerie Max Hetzler, I felt it was time I paid this man a visit to see exactly what I was missing.
A Troubled Relationship
First I should explain why I wasn’t intially the biggest fan of Neto’s work. I suppose I always enjoyed art on the pretentious side: stark, minimal sculptures or brief performances that PhD candidates would expel 500 page essays on. So when confronted with a massive, colorful installation like those of Neto, I was troubled by what appeared to be just a fun thing to look at. Where was the challenge? What was its meaning other than to be decorative? I clearly had a conceptual stick up my ass, and I wanted to see if viewing his work in person would change my mind.
Galerie Max Hetzler’s Daniela Esposito ponders Neto’s show in the space. Photo: Chris Phillips
Disappointingly, Galerie Max Hetzler isn’t showing these infamous, drooping pieces; instead the gallery is filled with a series of strange works by the artist whom I realized I frankly wasn’t familiar with. There were some modernist shaped steel pieces that resembled 3D puzzles that a child would potentially play with. Another included a hammock that visitors were invited to lie down on. These works were nice and clever, and surprisingly not as annoying as I assumed they would be.
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