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Park Avenue Armory Launches Annual Program to Commission Works Catalyzed by its Vast Drill Hall
Ernesto Neto, Leviathon Thot (Finger) 2007/2008 polyamide tulle, cotton fabric mattress 1900 x 1200 x 1500 cm. Installation views MOT, Japan. Photos: Kenji Morita. Courtesy the artist; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; and Galeria Fortes Vilaça, São Paulo.

NEW YORK, NY.- Park Avenue Armory announced the next step in its evolution as a dynamic arts institution with the launch of an annual program in which an artist will be commissioned to create a work of epic scale catalyzed by the Armory’s vast drill hall. The inaugural artist will be Ernesto Neto who is known for creating immersive installations that invite viewers to engage with and often literally enter the work. Incorporating materials such as spices, fabric, beads and shells, Neto’s interactive pieces go beyond the visual, heightening and expanding the visitor’s sensory experience. The Neto commission will open on May 14, 2009 and will run until June 14, 2009.

The Armory’s commissioning program will allow artists to create, and the public to experience work that could not otherwise be realized in New York—epic, participatory works that are not restricted by walls or encumbered by traditional institutional operational limitations.

“We are filling a critical niche in the arts ecology of New York, providing an opportunity for artists to work at a scale and in a way not possible elsewhere in the city,” said Rebecca Robertson, President and CEO of Park Avenue Armory. “Ernesto is the ideal artist to launch our annual program, as he works to create entire environments brought to life by the humanity that interact with them. Though we will continue to partner with other cultural institutions to realize and bring extraordinary works to the city, this commissioning program represents an evolutionary step for the Armory as we forge our own programming and distinctive institution.”

The Neto project is being curated by Armory curator Tom Eccles, former Director of the Public Art Fund and current Executive Director of the Center for Curatorial Studies and Art in Contemporary Culture at Bard College. “Ernesto often draws inspiration from his surroundings, and I cannot think of a better place than the Armory for New Yorkers to be able to immerse themselves in one of his largest works to date,” said Eccles. “His work is awe-inspiring, visceral and remarkably accessible to all generations. He encourages the participation of his audience and this new installation will create an unforgettable public space in the middle of Manhattan.”

The Armory’s new commissioning program is supported by an award from the Rockefeller Foundation’s New York City Cultural Innovation Fund. The award celebrates innovation in the creative sector through grants for trailblazing initiatives that strengthen the city’s multi-faceted cultural fabric and its economy.

The Park Avenue Armory installation will be Neto’s largest work to date and will virtually fill the Armory’s expansive Wade Thompson Drill Hall. It will be comprised of several monumental structures that together form an overall environmental installation (including both a massive suspended piece and an enormous floor piece which will have several pods) in which various activities, including presentations and participatory experiences, will take place.

Neto’s installation will incorporate the architecture of the Armory itself, and the public will be able to explore the piece from the different perspectives of the drill hall’s various interior balconies and windows, interacting with the work from both the ground and from a “bird’s eye view.”

The work as it has been originally conceived will consist of a fine, net-like fabric (or “skin”) to be suspended from the drill hall’s majestic steel latticework ceiling and spanning an area of approximately 192 feet by 100 feet with pieces suspended from its trusses up to 69 feet long. Hundreds of pounds of spices, including turmeric, clove, ginger, black pepper and cumin, will infuse the environment with scent and provide ballast for the vertical elements.

Ernesto Neto creates dynamic sculptures and organic-shaped installations using a wide variety of textiles, objects and materials. Most of his installations can be entered into, smelled, touched and heard, creating not only a visual but a multi-sensory experience. Neto’s works are often created with light fabrics such as nylon or cotton that are suspended from the roof within the space of the exhibition, and are filled with sand, spices or beads to create large, amorphous, organic shapes.

Ernesto Neto was born in 1964 in Rio de Janeiro, where he also lives and works. He attended the Escola de Artes Visuais Pargua Lage and also studied at the Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro. Since 1988, when Neto had his first solo show in Rio de Janeiro, he has created objects that thrive on tension: his creations appear on the verge of rupture, pushing elasticity to its limits. These initial sculptures, such as BarraBola (“barball”), are made of Lycra and simple, everyday materials that are stitched together. Neto’s pieces gradually grew larger in scale: his naves (“ships”), first made in the mid-90s, are penetrable translucent structures that entice the visitors to enter inside and experience space in a sensual way. Around the same time, he also started to use spices and colors within his sculptures.

In 2006, Neto created two large site-specific environments, one in Paris, the other one in Malmö, Sweden. Leviathan Thot was a dramatic intervention at the Panthéon in Paris and was made for the 35th Festival d’Atomne. With the Malmö Experience, Neto transformed the entire Malmö Konsthall into a sensorial, seemingly weightless and colorful Lycra environment. Here, Neto also included his ovaloid and humanoid structures, which are malleable shapes of elastic fabric with openings and pockets that invite the visitor to interact by touching, or even sitting inside of the work. More recently, in May 2008, Neto created a 50 foot tall and 23 foot wide multi-sensorial hanging structure for the entrance hall of the Museum for Contemporary Art in Rome (Mentre niente accade).

Ernesto Neto’s sculptures and drawings were first exhibited in New York in 1995. Since then, the artist has had many solo shows abroad, ranging from the Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna (2005) to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney (2002) , the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporaneo, Santiago de Compostela (2001), the Yokohama Museum of Art (2001), and the Institute of Contemporary Art London (2000). Neto’s work has been consistently included in international groups shows, such as the 2006 Tropicália: A Revolution in Brazilian Culture (organized by the MCA Chicago, and also hosted by the Bronx Museum, the Barbican Gallery and the MAM in Rio de Janeiro) and Psycho Buildings: Artists Take on Architecture at the Hayward Gallery in London (2008). Ernesto Neto has also participated in numerous international biennials: 5th Mercosul Bienal in Porto Alegre (2005), 1st Seville Biennial of Contemporary Art (2004), 8th Havana Biennial (2003), 49th Venice Biennale, representing Brazil (2001), Carnegie International (1999), Liverpool Biennial (1999), 24th São Paulo Bienal (1998), and the Sydney Biennial (1998). Ernesto Neto’s work is included in the collections of many important U.S. institutions, such as: the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in D.C., the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.

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