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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. 

 

Federico Solmi, "The Machiavellian Ones," 2019, Animated video-painting in a handmade artist frame

Federico Solmi
The Machiavellian Ones, 2019
Acrylic paint and gold leaf on plexiglass, LED screen, video loop
29 x 22 x 3 in.
03:34 min.

Federico Solmi, "The Trusted Father," 2019, Animated video-painting in a handmade artist frame

Federico Solmi
The Trusted Father, 2019
Acrylic paint and gold leaf on plexiglass, LED screen, video loop
18 x 14 x 2.75 in.
02:11 min.

Federico Solmi, "American Circus," 2019, Animated video-painting in a handmade artist frame

Federico Solmi
American Circus, 2019
Acrylic paint and gold leaf on plexiglass, LED screen, video loop
20 x 15.25 x 2.75 in.
02:50 min.

Federico Solmi, "The Drunken Boat," 2019, Animated video-painting in a handmade artist frame

Federico Solmi
The Drunken Boat, 2019
Acrylic paint and gold leaf on plexiglass, LED screen, video loop
69 x 44.75 x 3.75 in.
05:00 min.

Federico Solmi, "The Golden Gift," 2019, Animated video-painting in a handmade artist frame

Federico Solmi
The Golden Gift, 2019
Acrylic paint and gold leaf on plexiglass, LCD screen, video loop
69 x 45 x 3.75 in.
05:44 min.

Federico Solmi, "The Idolized Detractors," 2019, Animated video-painting in a handmade artist frame

Federico Solmi
The Idolized Detractors, 2019
Acrylic paint, gold and silver leaf on plexiglass, LED screen, video loop
69 x 44.75 x 3.75 in.
05:41 min.

American Circus is a maximalist portrait of Times Square as an eternal carnival, filled with food stands, whirling amusement rides, American flags, fireworks, an absurd collection of iconic world landmarks, and signs advertising “EVERYTHING 99¢ OR LESS.” A cheering crowd seems to revel in a continuous spectacle of entertainment, consumption, and nationalism.

 

“Any facet of contemporary life can be exemplified, criticized, rewritten or revealed. The role of art is as a vehicle of engagement, to offer society a means of self-reflection and perspective. The work I have created for Midnight Moment is a fantastical reflection of the space, the image, and the cultural meaning of Times Square, which is the epicenter of entertainment and media culture in America, and represents the influence of technology on our physical, public spaces.”

–Federico Solmi

 

“For Summer Season 2019, we are presenting a trio of Midnight Moments that are idiosyncratic portraits of Times Square, accentuating significant aspects of this neighborhood, and revealing almost as much about the artists who made them. American Circus holds up a funhouse mirror to Times Square and, by extension, to America. Presented in the patriotic month of July, Federico Solmi invites the viewer to join in or question the celebration."

– Andrew Dinwiddie, Acting Director, Times Square Arts

 

American Circus is a world premiere in a series of works titled The Great Farce. It is adapted from a nine-channel video installation by the same title that Solmi created for the 2017 B3 Biennial of the Moving Image in Frankfurt, Germany.

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