The first piece in Tomás Saraceno’s new exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art is entitled: Hybrid solitary semi-social semi-social SAO 90734 built by: a solo Nephilia senegalensis–one week, a duet of Cyrtophora citricola–three weeks, a quartet of Cyrtophora citricola juvenile–two weeks.
The name is a mouthful, but the mouths of visitors dropped as they walked into a darkness that revealed an intricate and ethereal glass structure of spider webs.
The case–roughly 2 feet by 2 feet –was illuminated by a single lamp that lent no light to the rest of the room, only the floating display of webbing created by seven female spiders from two species.
The themes behind this piece are sustainability and cohabitation, Saraceno says. These spiders don’t typically live with each other (or get along for that matter); however, each web created an individual society that spiders not only utilize as a home, but also as a food source and tool to ward off pests, like mosquitos. Each spider was individually placed in the case to create its own web and then removed to make room for the next spider-spun creation.
Saraceno is an Argentina-born, Berlin-residing artist known for his large installations. For “Entangled Orbits,” spider webs, clouds and other natural phenomenon serve as muse; the symmetry and shapes makes his training as architect shine through.
Consider a second installation that uses 80 transparent pillows and iridescent foil for a cloud-like structure that engulfs an entire room. String was suspending from the floor to the ceiling and visitors had to work their way through it like a thief, avoiding the lasers that guard an expensive painting.
Just outside in the hallway, two galactic-inspired pieces hung from clear fishing line and floated above the heads of onlookers. The pieces, made from metal, polyester rope, and steel thread, almost resembled nebulas–a clear reflection of Saraceno’s previous work as an artist-in-residence at NASA.
As visitors moved on to the centerpiece of “Entangled Orbits,” the sun began to shine through its iridescent panels suspended by – you guessed it – black thread inspired by spider webs. The piece was massive; visible from the lobby, it required tall visitors to duck to avoid some of the suspenders as they walk up the stairs.
Saraceno even plucked one of the strings to show visitors how the tension of one string affects the whole piece. The installation gently shook, but didn’t falter from its sturdy structure, just like a spider holding on from its web as the wind blows.
“Entangled Orbits” will be on display at the Baltimore Museum of Art through June 10, 2018.