Federico Solmi is a multimedia artist who examines the absurdities of the human experience through the lenses of colonialism, nationalism, religion, and consumerism. Born in 1973 in Bologna, Italy, Solmi has lived and worked in Brooklyn, New York, since 1999. His figurative narratives reflect the perspective of a cultural voyeur in the United States, questioning the nationalistic and revisionist histories often presented as historical truths. Solmi creates narrative video sequences built from traditional techniques of painting, drawing, and sculpture combined with technological approaches of animation, video game design, programming, and virtual reality. Through these narrative video constructs, Solmi presents a satirical, dystopian vision of lurid colors and grotesque imagery which challenge society’s constructed memory and historical mythos. The art of Paolo Uccello, Giorgio Morandi, and Giorgio di Chirico serve as reference for his visual compositions, while the writings of Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and Oriana Fallaci serve as inspiration for his social and political commentary.
Federico Solmi: Joie De Vivre is the first exhibition to explore the artist’s unique process—which combines traditional art practices and digital technologies—through a case study of Solmi’s most ambitious video-painting to date, The Bathhouse (2020). This monumental, 20-foot-wide, five-channel, multi-sensory video installation depicts an excess of revelry by Leaders from across world history in the setting of a Roman bathhouse. It is displayed alongside a selection of never-before-seen preparatory drawings, storyboards, and sketches. This juxtaposition of preparatory work alongside the finished product allows visitors to develop an understanding of the processes undertaken to create the final video installation.
Adjacent to this is an interactive, Virtual-Reality (VR) installation, The Bacchanalian Ones (2020), composed of three VR headsets with accompanying 3D-printed character masks. The visitor is invited to enter the world of The Bathhouse as one of three characters—George Washington, Colombo (Christopher Columbus), or Empress Theodora—wearing a VR headsets and manipulating hand-held controllers allows them to embody the chosen perspective through the eyes of one of these historical avatars. Thus empowered, the visitor creates and controls the narrative.
Also on display are seven new drawings (white pen, ink, gouache on wood panel) and six new pastels (soft pastel, white pen and ink on wood panel) created expressly for the exhibition, as well as four hand painted artist books (acrylic paint, gold leaf, and mixed media), the 20-foot-wide painting The Great Debauchery (2019; acrylic paint, gold and silver leaf, pen, ink, and mixed media on three wood panels with carved wood relief), and four additional video-paintings (acrylic paint, gold and silver leaf, LED screens, and video), including the eight-foot-wide The Grand Masquerade (2018). In association with the exhibition, the Morris Museum will produce a 112-page, color, fully illustrated book, Federico Solmi: Escape Into the Metaverse, by Black Dog Publishing, London.
The Morris Museum is excited to present this engaging and challenging exhibition that beautifully ties into the museum’s mission of Art, Sound, and Motion, by inviting visitors to virtually immerse themselves in the art, and connect to it as an active participant.
This exhibition is organized by Michelle Graves, Assistant Curator, Morris Museum. Federico Solmi: Joie De Vivre is made possible through the generous support of the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation. Additional general operating support for the exhibition is provided by Luis De Jesus Los Angeles. We are pleased to acknowledge the Ronald Feldman Gallery where the Morris Museum first discovered the work of Federico Solmi.
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This multimedia exhibition “examines the absurdities of the human experience through the lenses of colonialism, nationalism, religion and consumerism” from the “perspective of a cultural voyeur,” say the exhibition materials. The words used to title the works of art offer further clues into Solmi’s video-based world: Bacchanalian, debauchery, bathhouse.
“Joie de Vivre” is as processual examination of Federico Solmi’s multimedia creations. A fully immersive experience, this exhibition combines art, sound, motion and even virtual reality to honor Solmi’s social commentary. Each piece is characterized by an over-saturation of its subjects and often crude depictions of their nature. There is a sense of indulgence, a lens into the American culture of all-consuming power. This satirical approach results in the vibrant, alluring, and borderline humorous work of Solmi.
On the occasion of the recent opening of his big mid-career retrospective Joie de Vivre, through February 26, at the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey (an easy hour’s train ride out of Penn Station in Manhattan), the Wondercabinet herewith concludes its two-part serialization of Weschler’s biographical sketch of the artist Federico Solmi.
Solmi’s solo exhibition Joie de Vivre at the Morris Museum traces his journey from Bologna, Italy, as the son of a butcher born in 1973, to his latest turn as a societal voyeur in the United States, transforming this elegant outpost of the Smithsonian, a little known but spacious museum in deepest Northern New Jersey, into a digital space truly worthy of the term “metaverse.”
So, I asked Feldman, the sly old impresario, a bit later, “Who the hell is this Federico Solmi character, anyway?” Feldman’s eyes widened as he broke into one of his wide gleaming smiles. “Someone,” he pronounced, delphically, “well worth looking into.”