São Paulo

Ernesto Neto

Galeria Camargo Vilaça

Ernesto Neto explores the systems and conditions of balance. Fully aware of the material dimension of the elements he uses, he never reduces his work to a merely formal exercise. From the very beginning, Neto’s link with a series of questions raised by other Brazilian artists makes itself clear. Hélio Oiticia and Lygia Clark are perhaps the artists whose work most immediately comes to mind, due, of course, to the fact that the artist himself alludes to them almost literally in many of his recent pieces. Also evident in Nero’s oeuvre is a certain continuity between his work and the most recent sculptures of José Resende, Waltercio Caldas, and Cildo Meireles.

Common to the work of all these artists is that reflection on the material conditions of their production does not exclude commentary on spheres of knowledge that initially seem distant from artistic practice. Specifically, Neto’s work could be thought of as the attempt to construct a topology of desire founded on viewing systems of balance as desiring strategies. The material analysis of the conditions on which different systems of balance are based implies, then, for Neto, the construction of a poetic discourse on desire. As an example we may think of the work ConCreta Sonho (I dream of Crete, but also Concrete dream, 1994) as a delicate system of balance produced by the interrelation of four elements: a bar of steel whose form evokes that of a crutch, a quadrangular block of marble, a thread of cotton, and a replica of the artist’s face cast in lead. The thread connects the marble block to the mask and is tightened and balanced at the same time by the tip of the inverted crutch. This use of materials unmistakably refers to what could be characterized as the specific language of Brazilian sculpture. In the same way, the thread that seems to come out of the mouth of the leaden mold has a sort of reference to Clark’s Baba Antropofágica (Anthropological drool, 1973). Another level of meaning is reached, however, if we consider the poetic and metaphoric references implied by the use of certain forms and materials: marble as a condensed variation of the artist’s breath, voice, and corporeal substance, but also as a condition of the possibility that his face may emerge—and by extension his very identity—in a process mediated by the necessary participation of the steel crutch as a structuring, foreign site. The title of the piece also seems to operate on a multireferential level in alluding, on the one hand, to the Brazilian concrete tradition and, on the other, to a poetic, metaphoric dimension of knowledge. This dimension, evoked by the implicit allusion to the myth of the Minotaur, is, paradoxically, only accessible when the piece is thought in terms of its materiality.

Carlos Basualdo

Translated from the Spanish by Vincent T. Martin.