Luis De Jesus Los Angeles Inaugurates New DTLA Gallery With Federico Solmi Exhibition
The Bacchanalian Ones is the newest chapter in internationally acclaimed, multi-media artist Federico Solmi’s ongoing exploration into the archetypal myths and ideologies that makeup the American social imaginary. Combining the latest virtual reality technology, video game engines, 3D printing and digital animation software along with the more traditional media of drawing and painting, Solmi has created his own version of commedia dell’arte that reflects on the moralizing, judgmental, social airs and graces of our times.
Inspired by ancient mythology, modern myth, and contemporary celebrity culture, The Bacchanalian Ones compares the historical myth with a satirical mash-up of the powerful self-absorbed who preen and wallow in a banal spectacle of their own creation. The Los Angeles premiere of The Bathhouse, Solmi’s masterful five-channel video installation, best illustrates this. In a fantastically opulent setting of unrestrained hedonism, political, religious, and military leaders with a ghoulish, bouffonesque appearance are surrounded by social elite sycophants like the devotees of the cults of Bacchus and Dionysus.
In her catalog essay for Solmi’s recent solo exhibition at the Rowan University Art Gallery in Glassboro, NJ, Eleanor Heartney writes, “Solmi’s recurring themes are the corrupting effects of the quest for power and the disastrous consequences of the mass media’s ability to manipulate popular sentiment through appeals to our worst instincts. His works spare no one. Infamous historical tyrants and despots like Genghis Khan and Benito Mussolini, more ambiguous figures like Napoleon Bonaparte and Montezuma and generally lauded heroes like George Washington and Socrates join in raucous spectacles of debauchery, greed, and megalomania. Nor does he absolve us, his audience. The sound of roaring crowds accompanying his videos also indict a populace immersed in celebrity worship and consumed with politics as entertainment.”
As an artist whose process evolves as technology offers new ways to communicate, Solmi goes beyond traditional narrative-driven painting techniques using historical protagonists as narrators while questioning their veracity and reliability. An interactive VR installation will invite the gallery visitor to enter the Bacchanal by donning a VR mask and manipulating two hand-held controllers in order to pick the perspective of one of his historical avatars. This empowers the visitor to control the narrative, allowing them to experience the debauchery up close and personal — turning them into a tyrant, or a hero. Unlike most video artists, who depend on a lens-based process to create their work, Solmi repurposes the virtual architecture of video games to conjure a phantasmagoric world of whirling space, jerking movement and oscillating facades that strive to overwhelm the viewer’s visual field.
Solmi says of his work, “I believe that art can be used as an effective tool for social change. Art for me is a vehicle to fight injustices, a tool to spread awareness and independent thinking. With my artworks, I hope to inspire people to discover facts, to try to decode reality from fiction, historical truth from propaganda.”
In addition, there will be an installation of Solmi’s video-paintings; works that are comprised of digital animations using gaming software with painted borders that draw on the much older tradition of history painting – that now largely discarded genre that dominated the Parisian Salons of the 18th and 19th century. A presentation of recent drawings reveals Solmi’s acumen including new works that reinterpret the digital skeletons and virtual architecture of his 3-D renderings into white pen and ink and gouache drawings on black paper. In essence, he reverses the digital process by bringing the hand back to reveal what is beneath the video image created using animation software. Its political subject matter aside, the quality of line Solmi achieves in these drawings has the intricacies of Paolo Uccello and Albrecht Durer’s drawings, and the chiaroscuro of a Goya painting, bringing a wonderful addition to the first exhibition in the gallery’s new location.
Federico Solmi is the recipient of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in Video & Audio (2009) and has taught as a visiting professor at Yale University School of Art and Drama. Recent and forthcoming solo and group exhibitions include Thinking about History, The Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University (2021); Seeing Differently: The Phillips Collects for a New Century, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. (March 2021); Federico Solmi: The Bacchanalian Ones, Rowan University Art Gallery, Glassboro New Jersey (2020); and The Dissolve, SITE nta Fe Biennial, New Mexico (2010). Federico Solmi’s monumental media work, The Great Farce (2017), was recently acquired by the Phillips Collection and Northwestern University’s Block Museum of Art. His work was prominently featured in New York in Times Square Arts Midnight Moment and has also been included in numerous international exhibitions and biennials, including The Tides of The Century at the Ocean Flower Island Museum in Danzhou, China (2021), The Quest for Happiness—Italian Art Now, Serlachius Museum Gosta, Mantta, Finland (2019), the Beijing Media Art Biennale (2016), Frankfurt B3 Biennial of the Moving Image, Frankfurt, Germany, (2015, 2017) in which he won the BEN AWARD in 2015, the First Shenzhen Animation Biennial in China (2013), and the 54th Venice Biennial (2011). Solmi was born in 1979 in Bologna, Italy and is currently based in New York.
- Luis De Jesus