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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. 


King Kong and the End of the World, 2005-2006

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Federico Solmi entered the artistic world coming from the outsider realm. His work revels this fact, not only for the themes he chooses (popular, iconoclastic with amusing twists), but also in his frank style—with scratches, messy in character, a Dadaist sensibility, even absurd at times.  Solmi is obsessed with sex and reproduction, concerned by the contradictions of urban life; practices satire and venerates Rocco Siffredi (the porn star that develops the role of the hero in his earlier video animation Rocco Never Dies), subject matters indeed that bleed, sweat, cum, and touch us for pure instinct and nature. Solmi´s work crosses the work of the damned Raymond Pettibone, the theories of fluid and anti-nature parings of the philosophers Deleuze and Guatarri, and relates in kinship to the filmmaking of David Cronenberg.

King Kong and the End of the World (2006, edition of 10) plays with several icons of mass culture: the commercial brands, emblems of high culture, such as the Guggenheim Museum, mingled with some props and tools common in his works: the monstrosity of the phallus-hypertrophy used as fetish by other outsiders such as the decadent 19th century English Art Nouveau illustrator Aubrey Berdsley and the sadomasochistic comic book draftsman Nazario.

It is easy to deduce that King Kong functions as the alter ego of the artist, who frequently recognizes the profound influence of living in New York in his work.  King Kong, besieged and trapped by the urban landscape, loses control and destroys even what he loves (the Gagosian Gallery) until he is shot and killed.  The rage and impotence, felt before such an insane and voracious society, forces the artist to reward himself by representing the city under a rain of urine.  Solmi´s work is fresh and expresses through fantasy this defenseless feeling before the neurotic urban landscape.

King Kong and the End of the World ends, however, with a twist of hope: the artist and his wife are elected by God to repopulate the Earth. Federico stains the biblical episode of Adam and Eve, giving the man an enormous phallus.

—Mary Cuesta

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