Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Ernesto Neto at the Armory

Last night, Astrid and I finally made it to the Ernesto Neto installation, "anthropodino" at the Park Avenue Armory. It was absolutely worth the visit - a fantastical playground of art - that I would recommend everyone stop by while it is still up.

In the large, bare-bones space of the Drill Hall, Neto used a soft, sheer netting to cover a bone-like structure and create this whimsical playhouse. It is very skeletal--Astrid and I kept relating it to the dinosaur and whale skeletons at the Natural History Museum--but also very organ-like, because of the netting. When inside, it sort of felt like being on the Magic School Bus and going inside of the human body.

My favorite part of the installation were the hanging sacks of spices - each was filled with a different kind of spice, making the whole room smell beautiful. As you walked up to them, you could smell the individual spices (cloves, ginger, etc.). At one point Astrid reached up to touch one and smell it from her finger, but a guard warned us to stay away, as it was cayenne pepper! Wouldn't that feel lovely in your eyes...

The weak points of the exhibition, we both thought, were the play areas. There was a giant bean bag spot, a colorful rug area, and a tub filled with plastic balls to play in (sort of like at those McDonald's playhouses). Though many people were participating (particularly those with small children), it seemed a little forced, like Neto was trying maybe too hard to have an "interactive" exhibit. It seemed plenty interactive to me with just the space to wander through, and particularly as people came up to the spices to smell, inviting conversations with strangers about what type of spice was in each hanging net.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience and I am so glad I got to see it. The Park Avenue Armory is more known for its art and antique fairs than anything of this sort, and the drill hall is such a great, raw space, I loved seeing it used for a contemporary installation. The Neto piece will be up through June 14; for more details, see

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