Ernesto Neto: Sun Force Ocean Life: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX

30 May - 26 September 2021

This summer, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, presents Ernesto Neto: SunForceOceanLife, a major commission and one of the largest crochet works to date by the renowned Brazilian artist. Suspended from the soaring ceiling of Cullinan Hall of the Caroline Weiss Law Building, SunForceOceanLife forms a monumental labyrinth of brightly colored pathways defined by intricately crocheted netting. Reaching a height of 12 feet in the air, the pathways spiral outwards from the center of the gallery to create an interactive, multi-sensory sculptural intervention for visitors to explore. The seventh installment of the Museum’s summer immersive art series, SunForceOceanLife will be on view through Sunday, September 26, 2021.


“Ernesto Neto has captivated audiences around the world with his multi-sensory, structural environments—each one unique in nature and its visitor experience,” said Gary Tinterow, Director, the Margaret Alkek Williams Chair, MFAH. “We are delighted to bring this monumental, one-of-a-kind piece to our Museum and into our collection. It exemplifies our ongoing commitment to Latin American art and presentations of immersive, contemporary installations year after year.”


SunForceOceanLife is a spiraling, structural marvel that highlights the cyclical relationship between the sun and the sea to produce life on earth. This massive installation fills Cullinan Hall with yellow, orange, and green materials that are hand-woven into a myriad of patterns and sewn together in a spiral formation. At nearly 30 feet x 79 feet x 55 feet, the structure is suspended from the ceiling and spirals outwards from the center of Cullinan Hall to form one point of entry and one point of exit: the former at the entryway to the pavilion and the latter at the rear of the piece facing the south wall. As visitors enter, they follow a path through the interior passages to its center. Each crocheted section is filled with soft, plastic balls underfoot that move with each step, forcing visitors to focus on their inner balance and the stability of their own bodies.


“A structural feat, this site-specific piece for Cullinan Hall takes inspiration from the artist’s long-term study of and commitment to the art, culture, and traditions of various cultures that form Brazil,” said Mari Carmen Ramírez, Wortham Curator of Latin American Art and Founding Director of the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA), MFAH. “Neto transforms crochet, a popular Brazilian craft, taught to him by his grandmother and typically executed by women on a small, delicate scale, into massive structures that float several feet above the ground.”


“SunForceOceanLife is about fire, the vital energy that enables life on this planet,” said artist Ernesto Neto. “Every time we complete one crocheted spiral with the polymer string used in this work, we burn both ends with fire in a gesture that evokes meditation, prayer, and other sacred rituals. I hope that the experience of this work will feel like a chant made in gratitude to the gigantic ball of fire we call the sun, a gesture of thanks for the energy, truth, and power that it shares with us as it touches our land, our oceans, and our life. SunForceOceanLife also unites the disciplines of art and culture with biology and cosmology; it directly engages the body as does a joyful dance or meditation, inviting us to relax, breathe, and uncouple our body from our conscious mind. The sensation of floating, the body cradled by the crocheted fruits of our labor, brings to mind a hammock: the quintessential indigenous invention that uplifts us and connects us to the wisdom and traditions of our ancestors.”