Epiderme Barricada, 2003, cotton fabric, polyamide fabric and sand,
85 x 80 x 223 cm, courtesy of the artist, the Angel Collection of Contemporary Art, Israel, and Galeria Fortes Vilaça, São Paulo
Ernersto Neto's work is usually characterized by the creation of large-scale sculptural objects composed of soft, semi-transparent materials, while creating sensual environments within the exhibition space. The viewer can often enter the works, move within them and alter their form. This work is somewhat different: it is composed of thin nylon sacks, filled with sand and wrapped in cotton. The sacks are systematically organized one atop the other to create a barricade.
The work's title relates the corporeal and sculptural dimensions to one another. The epidermis is the skin's most superficial layer, which comes into contact with the world. It marks the boundary of the human body - a boundary that protects the interior of the body, circumscribing it and preventing its eruption into the surrounding space - while also preventing the environment's invasion of it. Neto's epidermal barricade seems to be offering protection against an attack from the outside, against death itself, while simultaneously exposing its own delicate and fragile character. It gives rise to a consideration of the power of fragility, of the possibility of protecting without attacking. The tension between the work's soft appearance and the discomfort and terror it provokes are amplified by the metaphor arising from its name.
Born in Rio de Janeiro, 1964; lives and works in Rio de Janeiro