Incredulity, curiosity, delight, all are emotions that flooded in as I watched animated videos of The Brotherhood by Federico Solmi at Luis de Jesus Gallery.
The Brotherhood, according to the artist, consists of the powerbrokers of world history. They are gathered here to celebrate their victories without a moment of regret: Napoleon Bonaparte, Genghis Khan, Christopher Columbus, Benito Mussolini, Sitting Bull, Marie Antoinette, Idi Amin, Montezuma and more. He seems to say that the abuse of high position spans centuries, continents, race and gender.
2016, LED monitor, animated video, plexiglas, acrylic paint, wood, 36 x 24 inches, edition 1/1.
Even George Washington is depicted riding his horse, grinning maniacally, as bevys of American Indians parade behind him to patriotic tunes. A deep, heavily embellished and hand-painted frame surrounds each video’s flatscreen monitor. Washington’s image is wrapped with red, white and blue American flags, eagles, gold stars and other such symbols of national identity.
Solmi, an Italian born, New York-based artist, draws these characters in his own idiosyncratic style, with sketchy pen and ink lines and splashy color, then animates them with 3-D and videogame technology. He uses his own body as a model for their puppet-like movements. Unlike much digitally based art, they have a hand-made, rudimentary quality that is the very essence of their appeal. No one needs an artist to explain the evils of absolute power but Solmi’s caricatures in motion rise above the obvious with his incredible attention to detail in costumes and settings. Apart from the highly conservative Pope Benedict XVI, nodding and smiling in this video as though he had indeed gone senile, Solmi uses famous or infamous figures and settings from more distant history. The strongest works emphasize that legacy, letting us infer that pomp, conceit and corruption are timeless.
In addition to the individual animated portraits, the back gallery features The Ballroom where walls draped in red fabric bear five framed video monitors showing a loose animated narrative of the potentates gathered in palatial rooms where uniformed waiters bring them food and drink. Men smoke cigars and dance with women in gowns. The soft music of a waltz fills the room. The architectural background is spread across the videos so the figures seem to stroll from one side to the other lost in their own amiable society, oblivious to the consequences of their actions. This remarkable body of work continues on view through July 30.