Created in collaboration with FWM, Ernesto Neto’s The Gate and The Garden were ambitious explorations of material, form, and scale. The monolithic sculptures combine to form an immediate and sensual experience. As with the artist’s previous large-scale installations, which he has described as a “kind of body/space/landscape,” the effect of the work is felt through direct experience, not symbolic representation.
Through large fabric sculptures and participatory environments, Neto’s work often probes the spatial and sensory relations between the viewer’s body and the installation environment. In his own words, his artworks exist as “a place of sensations, a place of exchange and continuity between people, a skin of existence and relationships.” For Neto’s collaboration with FWM, he replaced his earlier works’ transparent “skins” of fabric, which he had stretched, pulled, balanced, and filled with spices and powders. In The Gate and The Garden, the skin became full and fleshlike, made from solid blocks of opaque, polyurethane foam. Neto carefully considered each cut so that the long carving blade would follow the artist’s hand while bending and flexing within the dense foam. Thanks to the play between the artist and his new material, the resulting forms appear less determined, even organic.
This new collaborative work by Neto is a participatory environment that extends his earlier artistic experiments with unconventional materials. Olga Viso—former Executive Director of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis—describes Neto’s work as that which will “arrest us visually but also make us keenly aware of the spaces inside, around and between our bodies. We become voyagers in sensorial odysseys.”