Federico Solmi (b. 1973, Bologna, Italy) is an internationally acclaimed multi-media artist who employs a satirical aesthetic in order to portray a dystopian vision of our present-day society. Combining traditional media, such as drawing and painting, with emerging technologies such as 3D animation, video-game software, and kinetic technology, Solmi's animations playfully and irreverently depict the most loathed and hypocritical aspects of contemporary life and western society through absurd narratives. Solmi stages a a virtual world where our leaders become puppets and the absurdity of exploitative action is accentuated, brilliantly animated by computer scripts and motion capture.
Solmi’s process of creating video animation involves the construction and development of a virtual world within a video game engine. Surface textures and characters are scanned from original paintings and drawings, later applied to 3D-models designed in Maya and ZBrush. Within each designed "game," Solmi uses the first-person view to explore chaotic environment as both voyeur and director. During production the narratives and images continually evolve and are further developed with drawings and storyboards. Various characters' actions are captured in real time with screen recording software, then edited and overlaid with audio compositions. Once exported and assembled, the resulting video-paintings merge seamlessly with the hand-painted frames surrounding each tv monitor. Each project can take up to three years to complete.
Solmi’s animated video series The Evil Empire (2006-2009) provoked controversy and censorship in France and Spain, eventually escalating to a now infamous trial in Italy in which he was charged with and tried for obscenity, blasphemy, and offense to religion. The hand-drawn animation is set in "Vatic-Anal-City" in the year 2046 and portrays the exploits of a fictional pope who is addicted to online porn and predatory sex with priests and nuns. A number of related objects accompanied the series, including a sculpture of a crucifix that features Solmi as the Pope with a large grin and a huge erection. The charges were ultimately dismissed, but the attention from this controversy led to Solmi to receiving a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship. Other videos and series by Solmi include: The Brotherhood (2015-2018), Chinese Democracy and the Last Day on Earth (2012), King Kong and the End of the World (2005), The Giant, and Rocco Never Dies (2004).
Recent exhibitions include The Great Farce (2019) presented by Times Square Arts’ Midnight Moment across 100 Times Square billboards; The Great Masquerade (2019), a 20-year survey exhibition at Tarble Arts Center, Charleston, Illinois, and Kunstkraftwerk, Leipzig, Germany; Open Spaces: A Kansas City Experience (2018), organized by Dan Cameron and presented at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Gallery of Art; The Good Samaritan (2018) at Rochester Contemporary Art Center, Rochester, NY; The Great Farce (2017) at Frankfurt B3 Biennial, a commissioned work presented on monumental digital billboards on the exterior of the Schpielhaus, The Frankfurt Opera House; 2016 Quadrinnale di Roma, Rome, Italy; and the 2015 B3 Frankfurt Biennial, at which he was awarded the Ben Main Prize, the festival’s top prize. Solmi’s work has been exhibited in numerous museums, institutions, and festivals, including: 54th Venice Biennale (2011); 2010 SITE Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; The Drawing Center, New York; Haifa Museum of Art, Haifa, Israel; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Kasseler Kustverein; the Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival, Kassel; Shenzhen Independent Animation Biennial, Shenzhen, China; National Center for Contemporary Art, Moscow; Reina Sofia and CA2M Centro de Arte de Mayo, Madrid; Loop Barcelona; Australian Center of Moving Images, Melbourne; Victoria Memorial Museum, Calcutta, India; Contemporary Art Center of Rouboix; Palazzo Delle Arti, Naples, and Palazzo Delle Esposizioni, Rome; and Impakt Film and Video Festival, Utrecht.
His work has been reviewed by various publications including: Artforum, Art in America, Flash Art Magazine, Tema Celeste, Artnet.com, Artillery, Artinfo.com, Artfacts.net, Art Scene LA, Art Actuelle, Contemporary, Marie Claire, Glamour, L’Espresso, Visual Art Source, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, KCRW’s “Art Talk”, Le Figaro, Daily News, El Mundo, El Pais, il Giornale, Il Mattino, il Corriere della Sera, and La Republica. In 2007, SKY TV, an Italian digital satellite television platform, aired a one-hour feature presentation about his videos on their culture channel, Leonardo. Exibart, an Italian contemporary art magazine, featured a drawing from the video King Kong and the End of the World on the cover of its January 2006 issue.
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A conversation with Eleanor Heartney, Joan Jonas, Barbara London, and Federico Solmi, moderated by Martha Schwendener, and Phong Bui to celebrate the publication of Barbara London's recent monograph Video Art: the First Fifty Years (Phaidon) and Eleanor Heartney's new book Doomsday Dreams (Silver Hollow Press).
Past and present, history and amusement, reality and spectacle are conflated and distorted in Federico Solmi’s monumental media work, “The Great Farce” (2017), recently acquired by Northwestern University’s Block Museum of Art. The Block received the multiscreen, limited-edition work as a gift from the artist’s studio in recognition of the museum’s upcoming 40th anniversary and its related initiative “Thinking about History.”
Originally commissioned for the 2017 B3 Biennial of the Moving Image, Frankfurt, Germany, “The Great Farce” is Solmi’s most ambitious work to date in terms of technical complexity, physical scale and scope of content. Featuring a cast of time-traveling world leaders with a feverish madness for power, Solmi’s animation turns a frenzied, fun-house mirror to grandstanding historical figures.
Yale School of Art faculty member and alumna Sarah Oppenheimer ’99 ART, along with some former faculty members and alumni, are featured in the current Artspace exhibition “Strange Loops,” on view through the end of February. The group exhibition explores psychological affect and the human condition expressed through instruments, systems, and objects of human design.
Past and present, history and amusement, reality and spectacle are conflated and distorted in Federico Solmi’s monumental media work, The Great Farce (2017), recently acquired by Northwestern University’s Block Museum of Art. The Block received the multiscreen, limited-edition work as a gift from the artist’s studio in recognition of the museum’s upcoming 40th anniversary and its related initiative “Thinking about History.”
Few other places in New York conjure up such strong feelings. For residents, those feelings range from irritation to revulsion. For tourists, it’s a must-see falling somewhere on their itinerary between the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State building. From the unwashed hordes to stores that can be found in any mall to the neon sorcery decking every block, there’s no question that Times Square is a repository of excess in every way. Whether you find it distasteful or endearing, there’s no denying its pull, even if your personal contact with it is limited to TV on New Year’s Eve or, for locals, a train transfer on its many platforms.
Jamie Martinez: Congratulations on your recent shows, especially the solo booth with Ronald Feldman at the last Armory. It was one of the top booths in many publications. We’ll have to get back to that. Can you first talk about your background in the arts and your journey to becoming an artist in New York? Where did it all begin? Federico Solmi: Well, it’s a long story. It all began almost 20 years ago, when I left my hometown: Bologna, Italy, and I decided to move to New York to pursue a career in the arts. It was the best decision of my life, of course; not an easy decision, but it proved to be the right one.