Stretching Art Too Far?

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Talk about persistence and perseverance. I attempted to see the exhibition of the well-known Brazilian sculptor Ernesto Neto, but failed on my first two trips to the MOCA satellite gallery at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood. I can never remember the museum's hours of operation. The first time I arrived, it was five minutes after closing. The second time, it was not open either. There is a new schedule in which the museum is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, probably in response to a financially difficult time. On the other hand, admittance to MOCA is free every Thursday, when the museum is open until 8pm.

I had high expectations for the exhibition, considering how enamored I was by Ernesto Neto's site-specific installation at the Venice Biennale two years ago. Imagine gigantic ladies' hosiery made out of translucent, stretchy Lycra. Now try to envision each of the many legs stretched ten, fifteen, even twenty feet from the floor to the ceiling. Stretched and pulled in many directions, the porous fabric forms multiple bulbous enclosures filled with materials usually not used in artistic practice: "aromatic spices such as clove, turmeric, pepper, cumin and curry-." I can still remember the smell permeating the space.-

For his latest installation, the artist used dried rice, corn and black beans. I wish I could say that his site-specific artwork at MOCA is as good as his best installations around the world. It starts out promising. The entrance to the exhibition is a participatory, sensual experience. On the ground floor a visitor is confronted by a narrow corridor - a virtual obstacle course - with several screens of stretched translucent fabric that have round openings one must climb through on the way to the gallery upstairs. But the main installation in the upstairs gallery, where visitors are asked to take off their shoes before entering the tent-like enclosure, struck me as laborious and cumbersome. I was not enticed to enter and snuggle with the many organic shapes growing up from the floor like tentacles.--

To be fair, the high-ceiling gallery is notoriously inhospitable to most of the artworks that I've had a chance to see there through the years. But a good artist never uses these kinds of limitations as an excuse for not succeeding. It seems like Ernesto Neto tried, but didn't succeed, in overcoming the corporate coldness of the space. On the day I went there, being the only visitor watched by the lone security guard, I felt thoroughly alienated. Maybe my experience would be different with a crowd to enliven the setting. I wonder why the museum didn't promote this show better? You go to MOCA's two downtown spaces and there are no banners or flyers informing visitors about Ernesto Neto's exhibition.-

To my surprise, the experimental exhibition by LACMALab at the Boone Children's Gallery, in spite of a very negative review by an L.A. Times art critic, proved to be very popular with throngs of parents and their happy children. The exhibition aims to provide understanding "of how art, science, culture, and technology influence each other." It's called "Nano" and has something to do with nanoscience- don't even ask. I went to school before these kinds of things were taught. But on this occasion, I had a lot of fun observing the kids interacting with the technology, though I'm still not sure what it has to do with art.--

Ernesto Neto
September 28, 2003 - January 12, 2004
MOCA at the Pacific Design Center
8687 Melrose Avenue
West Hollywood, CA 90069

December 14, 2003 - September 6, 2004
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 857-6010