The Final Days of Ernesto Neto at the Park Avenue Armory


New Yorkers, you’ve only got until June 14th to get to the Park Avenue Armory to check out the mammoth multi-sensory, interactive sculpture by Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto — the first in a series of annual commissions by the non-profit. Titled Anthropodino, Neto’s work takes its human-centricity to heart in its simultaneous appeal to all five senses. There’s also the fact that it looks like a big, dreamy womb that has nothing to do with real life.

Made of a stretched skin of polyamide tulle, the tear-free translucence makes the colors (deep pink, yellow, blue, white, and other floral palettes) themselves change with the variable tautness of the fabric. Hanging sacks were filled with pounds of fresh and pungent clove, pepper, cumin, ginger, lavender, chamomile, and weighted down with rice and stones. As the New York Times notes, “The culinary aroma alone tells us we are in the realm of the Great Mother. There is the suggestion of a kind of an Oedipal — or pre-Oedipal — erotic dimension too, as the sheer fabric calls to mind nylon stockings.” Ahem.

Dating back the last quarter of the 19th century, this historic building’s quirky character and inversion of exterior and interior elements was a context clearly not lost on curator Tom Eccles. We imagine he had plenty of late nights with the engineering department figuring out how to hang the whole thing from the rafters.

Neto’s work is often multi-dimensional and experiential, approaching themes of solidity and ephemerality, awe and exploration, mediation and play, and the importance of sound, touch, smell, and sound, as well as sight, in a deeper appreciation of art. In fact the noise of movement and conversation gave the structure life, adding a bit of chaos to the transporting, immersive experience; the play of light from the clerestory making it feel like a secular temple, soothing despite or perhaps partly because of all those laughing children.