Last December I had the pleasure of visiting Ernesto Neto’s studio to work with him on his upcoming show. Situated in the bustling old city centre of Rio de Janeiro, his three storey building facilitates all aspects of the artist’s production. The space is crammed full of fabric and material samples and includes an office with a library, a digital lab for creating 3D virtual models of his structures, a fabrication area including a few industrial sewing machines, an open plan area for testing new installations, and lastly though importantly, a rope hammock for thinking and relaxing.
The architecture of the building remains largely unaltered (ie. not a white cube), but Neto has turned a doorway or two into a curved aperture typical of his organic forms. In fact, a few days later when we visited the former house of architect Oscar Neirmeyer in the suburb of Canoas, the similarities between the curving lines of this house and Neto’s kind of ‘soft architecture’ did seem rather uncanny.
While Neto has never explicitly sought to replicate the architect’s visual vocabulary, his aversion for the straight and direct surely speaks to this legacy – at least as much as it also recalls the meandering rivers and valleys of Rio itself. As if to confirm this willing obliqueness, stencilled over the front interior stairs of Neto’s studio, like a Samba-influenced coat of arms, is the slogan ‘less sexy, more sensual’.
Look out for Ernesto Neto’s exhibition at the re-opening of the Hayward Gallery this June.