Italian born, US based artist Federico Solmi’s two part solo show COUNTERFEIT HEROES [La fachada de los héroes] opens August 7 at G17 at Centro de Arte Los Galpones, Caracas, and September 10, at Museo de Arte Contemporáneo del Zulia (Maczul) in Maracaibo. His work will also be featured in POWERS SEEN AND UNSEEN, a group show opening this Fall at Hacienda La Trinidad Parque Cultural, Caracas. These exhibitions represent the debut of the artist’s works in Latin America.
Each iteration is part of Global Visions: Insights into International Moving Image Art, a program created by Backroom Caracas and curated by Kelly Gordon. The year-long program of exhibitions, lectures, films and workshops has been developed with support from the Office of Public Affairs at the Embassy of the United States in Caracas and in collaboration with Maczul, Centro de Arte Los Galpones, Hacienda La Trinidad Parque Cultural, and Foto Florida Servicios Audiovisuales.
The catalog for Solmi’s presentations takes a form as distinctive as his oeuvre: a novel, ironic coloring book. Viewers are invited to literally interact with his drawings and sharpen their crayons. Instead of the mesmerizing, reputedly theraputic impact associated with the fad of adult coloring books, Solmi’s pages offer close-ups with his disturbing caricatures. A sample from the catalog will be downloadable from the Backroom website.
Curator Kelly Gordon writes «Grotesquery and fearsome exaggeration date back to depictions of mankind’s earliest idols. This sensibility surfaces regularly in Western art, notably in Leonardo’s sketches, in war critiques from Goya to Picasso and in the traumatized urgency expressed by Ensor, Munch, Grosz and Basquiat. Extending this legacy of expressionism, Solmi’s haunting social commentaries question how the iconic status of current and historical figures, potentates and celebrities, is conferred by the masses who enable their reputations.»
Federico Solmi (Bologna, 1973) lives and works in New York. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and is currently Visiting Professor at Yale University. The artist’s extraordinary video-animations have been featured at the Venice Biennale, Frankfurt B3 Biennial of Moving Images, Site Santa Fe Biennial and at museums including MACBA, Museum of Contemporary Art (Barcelona), Centre Pompidou, Palais de Tokyo (Paris), Museo Reina Sofía (Madrid), Drawing Center (New York), Haifa Museum of Art (Israel), Centro Cultural Matucana 100, (Santiago), Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin), OCT Contemporary Art Terminal (Shanghai), Victoria Memorial Museum (Kolkata, India), Contemporary Art Center of Rouboix, Palazzo Delle Arti (Naples) and Palazzo delle Esposizioni (Rome).
Cited on the Artforum 2015 «Critics Picks,» Solmi has also had works featured in expositions including Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival, London International Animation Festival, Loop in Barcelona and Utrecht’s Impakt Film and Video Festival, and this fall, at Beijing Media Art Biennale.
The artist’s disquieting works begin with his conceptualization of imaginary scenarios, sometimes historical in origin and sometimes in reference to contemporary personalities, events or issues. Solmi’s process unfolds through exuberant freehand drawings. These are developed into series of densely painted works, put into motion with 3D imaging software.
This intricate, labor-intensive process deploys satire to express the harrowing dimensions of modern life — the fallacies of power, the pretensions of celebrity and the inescapability of media-conditioned mentality. Solmi burlesques contemporary society by creating a universe filled with cartoonish characters who move awkwardly through indecipherable, often hilarious situations.
The artist’s work draws inspiration from Orianna Fallaci’s observation: «There’s something missing in all writings about power: Very few are able to capture how funny it is. When they examine the horrors that power commits, the sufferings it imposes, the blood with which it stains itself, historians and political scientists always forget to highlight the ridiculous aspects of the inevitable monster and how funny they are, with their ironed uniformed, unearned medals and invented awards.»
COUNTERFEIT HEROES is comprised of The Ballroom (2015), a large-scale projection from Solmi’s video series The Brotherhood. The work features a hallucinatory masquerade of current and historic icons, both the feared and the revered. Their festive celebration devolves into a decadent nightmare. Solmi deploys his signature visual disorder to satirize the self-absorption of celebrity culture and to alert viewers to how their complacency perpetuates the mythologies that cloak such personalities. At Maczul, this work will be shown along with flat screen video-portraits from The Brotherhood.
Artist’s website: federicosolmi.com
About the program:
Global Visions: Insights into International Moving Image Art is a program created by Backroom Caracas and curated by Kelly Gordon, with support from the Office of Public Affairs at the Embassy of the United States in Caracas, and a collaboration alliance with Museo de Arte Contemporáneo del Zulia, Centro de Arte Los Galpones and Hacienda La Trinidad Parque Cultural, that will unfold throughout 2016. The program comprises exhibitions, talks, workshops and screenings in Caracas and Maracaibo, and aims to explore our contemporary relationship with moving image art from an international perspective.
About the curator:
Kelly Gordon, the founding Curator for Film and Media at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden of the Smithsonian Institution, has recently become an International Independent Curator at Large and Moving Image Acquisitions Consultant, based in Washington, DC.