Ernesto Neto, ‘Quem paga o arrego, spray! (Who pays the bill, spray!)’, 2012, Serpentine Galleries

Ernesto Neto
Quem paga o arrego, spray! (Who pays the bill, spray!) 2012
Ink on cotton rag paper
76 x 56 cm
Edition of 45

Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1964, Ernesto Neto is a prominent and highly influential contemporary artist. His practice is linked with the legacies of both Concretism and Neo-Concretism, the two Brazilian movements of which Lygia Pape was a founding proponent.
Neto's edition for the Serpentine Gallery is inspired by Luz (Light), the final page of Lygia Pape's renowned bookwork Livro da criação (Book of Creation), 1959-60. Described by Neto as a 'negative shadow', the book concludes with Luz, a plain sheet of card containing a square aperture through which light can pass. Furthering this opposition between light and shadow, Neto has created a series of unique, handmade works by spraying ink over a template object. The resulting images are playful investigations of positive and negative space, which combine areas of intense pigmentation with diffuse patterns.
The title Quem paga o arrego, spray! (Who pays the bill, spray!) refers to an expression used by Neto while growing up in Rio de Janeiro. In the '60s and early '70s, 'arrego' was a colloquial term used to express frustration at a situation. Nowadays, it is more commonly heard in the favelas when offering a bribe to the police, hence the emergence of the saying 'quem pago o arrego?' or 'who pays the bill?' when attending a clandestine gathering or unlicensed street party. Like Lygia Pape, who drew inspiration for her work from the creative energy she encountered on the street, Neto's work is a celebration of the potential for inventiveness and play in our everyday lives.

About Ernesto Neto

A highly influential contemporary Brazilian artist, Ernesto Neto creates large-scale, sensuous environments that evoke bodily experience. Often working with a stretchy, stocking-like fabric in vibrant colors, which he fills with aromatic, organic, or tactile materials such as spices, coffee beans, or Styrofoam, Neto suspends pendulous forms from the ceilings and walls of galleries, or creates spaces walled with membrane-like gauze, into which viewers are invited to enter. These giant stalactites and structures contain phallic forms and orifices suggestive of sexuality. “My work speaks of the finite and the infinite, of the macroscopic and the microscopic, the internal and external, by the masculine and feminine powers,” he says. “But sex is like a snake, it slithers through everything.” Neto considers Alexander Calder, Constantin Brancusi, Richard Serra, Tunga, and Cildo Meireles to be influences on his practice.

Brazilian, b. 1964, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil