All clear for take-off. “Prisma Branco,” by Ernesto Neto.
Cow udder. Landing spacecraft. Stalactites. Giant cat toy. These are just a few of the ideas that come to mind when viewing Ernesto Nesto’s “Prisma Branco.” The large-scale work is now on view at the Museum of Fine Arts as part of the Beyond Limits show.
Hanging from the ceiling through multiple simple eyelets, “Prisma Branco” hovers capaciously in a gallery corner casting shadows on the walls that as entertaining as the artwork itself. Airily blending the art into the space. Like low hanging fruit on a tree, one wants to just cradle one the many biomorphic shapes that strain at the ends the soft material tubes, just to ease their stress. There is a constant dynamic of lift versus pull with these shapes. It is ready for take-off, but cannot escape gravity. You would believe the weighty tubes would stretch to their limits to keep it earth bound during launch.
As you walk around, under and through the hanging prongs, you find no sharp edges. The artist keeps material and colors soft and inviting. Weighted forms that are meticulously stretched all connect into a central web creating a nerve-like labyrinth of soft white semi-opaque material. All are connected and all relate in arrangement as so much of Nesto’s work does. Here the stress of the pods’ own weight creates natural soft flowing lines that terminate with packets of pink and light blue objects. All the blues hang on the inner structure surrounded by higher pink ones, moat-like on the perimeter. This viewer immediately saw the colors as baby-like and gender specific. But Nesto challenges that thinking of the gender norm with the cargo within the prongs. The pink round, oval-like forms inhabiting the sacks become quite testicular. Where as the light blue forms hang straight down and with shapes and folds become vaginal. Debunking the pink for girls, blue for boys rule.
Once inside, or underneath depending on how tall you are, you clearly have a sense you are inside a work of art. Your vision is filled with his playful protuberances. It is like looking for the forest through the trees. You are no longer an art viewer standing in front a painting. No, you are sucked into Nesto’s world. You are in a maze, or a cave surrounded by sprightly stalactites. This piece of work defines the very space you are in. Taking you from simple viewer to visceral participant. Your senses become engaged. You may find yourself in a tranquil state of mind or lost in the woods. It is a strange world, the world of Nesto.
Whether you view “Prisma Branco” at a distance to see it in its entirety or inspect a prong close up, you are always enveloped in a presence of a familiar but never seen before experience. Perhaps neural, biological or even cosmic, “Prisma Branco” lets you know you are Beyond Limits of what art can be.
This post was written in December of 2016 as a homework assignment for a class at UMass Boston with Professor Andrew Clark. The class title was Literature and the Visual Arts.