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Ernesto Neto: Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.

Ernesto Neto


"If the sacred serpent had not offerfed] the fruit of the knowledge tree, the apple love, to Eve, and told her to share it with Adam, they would be till today in the Paradise beautiful, and we, where would we be? There would not be we, you and me, none of us. So, the boa serpent gave birth to humanity." This handwritten statement, welcoming visitors to Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto's immersive take on the Garden of Eden, put forward a novel interpretation of the Book of Genesis. Scrawled on the gallery wall, the text characterized the serpent not as a trickster but as a primordial generative force--the basis of creation.

The environs of Neto's show were inviting: It was impossible to avoid the pleasure of walking barefoot over the soft, bright-yellow carpet that lined the gallery floor. Neto had painted the walls a comfortable, earthy brown, and hung them with intricate woven configurations (all works 2016), all hand-crocheted in multicolor cotton voile. Warmly evocative of natural plentitude, these works summoned comparisons with stars, rays of light, waves, trees, seeds, living plants, and votive offerings. Bulbous, stalklike sculptures drooped from the ceiling, bringing to mind seedpods or aerial roots. At the center of the room was the show's centerpiece--the round, canopied The Serpent's energy gave birth to humanity, which guarded the secret heart of the garden. Upon entering this colorful, crocheted structure--accessible only through a vulval, magenta opening--visitors found themselves facing a gnarled brown shape: the trunk of the tree of knowledge, with a serpent wrapped around it. A basket of (real) apples rested on an intricate carpet. Adam and Eve were absent from this primal scene, meaning that the viewer was the protagonist in the crucial moment of mankind's fate. The serpent offered us the forbidden fruit; indeed, each of us bears both Eve's capacity for transgression and the snake's generative power. Were we to accept?

Neto represents the snake as a sinuous line, a form that is present in other works as well. The serpentine sculpture e twin serpents, the stairway to life a, for example, takes the shape of a twisting ladder. Bringing to mind the very essence of cellular life, it spirals like DNA. Together Vine Earth Sky, meanwhile, is a long rope woven with semiprecious stones that runs from floor to ceiling. Voice sound a e a e a e introduced a different kind of imagery: It appears to delineate sound waves, suggesting a remembrance of breath, voice, prayers, and mantras.

When producing this exhibition, Neto took inspiration from his experiences with the Huni Kuin tribe, an indigenous community in the Brazilian Amazon region. The Huni Kuin's profound, harmonious connection to nature had a powerful influence on Neto's work, giving him a deeper understanding of the symbiotic relationship between humans and their environment. That influence is apparent in the way Neto brings audiences into intimate contact with their surroundings, immersing them completely in odors, textures, and colors.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Caption: Ernesto Neto, The Serpent's energy gave birth to humanity, 2016, cotton voile crochet, cotton voile knot carpet, bamboo, semiprecious stones, wood, leaves, apples, guitar, bongos, maracas, dimensions variable.

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Author:Panicelli, Ida
Publication:Artforum International
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Mar 1, 2017
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