You Can Look, But Please Touch

neto_6Ernesto Neto’s current installation in the Wade Thompson Drill Hall at the Park Avenue Armory is an ideal museum outing for children of all ages and adults who are willing to experience the wonder of being a child again. Neto’s anthropodino is an adventurous invitation to see, touch, and smell, spanning the epic height and width of its venue. Bridging the gap between sculpture and architecture, this exhibit does away with the traditional “do not touch” rule that one expects when visiting a museum. Instead, viewers are encouraged to enter the piece, feel its thin, fabric walls, peer through its winding hallways, and smell its drooping sacks of spices. The manner in which viewers are asked to explore the piece happily complements its construction, both being thoroughly organic. The layout is reminiscent of the internal structure of a starfish, with a domed, central cavity surrounded by an off-shooting vascular system of hallways. The frame consists of flat wooden cutouts that resemble bones at the joints, providing the skeleton for a transparent membrane that stretches over it like a porous skin. Though it is largely composed of common and recognizable materials, the manner in which the piece is arranged gives it a very alien sensation, providing a stage for the imagination to wander upon. The arches breathe upward, rendering a light, airy sensation, while the hanging stalactites of spice create a suspended image of gravity weighing down. This dichotomy further enhances the otherworldly impression of the edifice. Neto seems to be fashioning a new world composed of elements of the world we live in, arranging it so we may sense that which we know from a different perspective. While the comforts of shelter and food are undeniably present, there is the somewhat eerie suggestion of the skeletal frame, hinting that this may be the hollowed-out remains of something that is no longer living. Despite the inviting nature of the piece, there is some slight sense that this structure was not built by or for humans but for some other life form that is no longer present. In this regard it possess both the beauty and somewhat foreboding mystery found in the ruins of past civilizations. There does not seem to be any clear narrative or message, but rather a stirring environment that provides a springboard for one’s own postulations. Overall anthropodino seems to be a work that is meant more to be experienced rather than deeply analyzed, which is a program visiting children seem to have no trouble with. - C. Jefferson Thom anthropodino is being presented at the Park Avenue Armory (643 Park Avenue) and closes June 14th. cj_thomMr. Thom lives in New York City and walks dogs, writes plays, and loves dissecting pop culture.