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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 Bacchanalian Ones (2020) at Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ; 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, IL and at Kunstkraftwerk, Leipzig, Germany; Open Spaces: A Kansas City Experience (2018), organized by Dan Cameron; 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 Frankfurt Opera House; 2016 Quadrinnale di Roma, Rome, Italy; and the 2015 B3 Frankfurt Biennial, at which he was awarded the Ben Main 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. 

His work has been reviewed by publications and media platforms such as Artforum, Art in America, Flash Art Magazine, Frieze, Tema Celeste, Artnet.com, Artillery, Artinfo, Artfacts.net, Art Scene LA, Art Actuelle, Contemporary, Marie Claire, Glamour, L’Espresso, Visual Art Source, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, KCRW ArtTalk, Le Figaro, Daily News, El Mundo, El Pais, il Giornale, Il Mattino, and La Repubblica. 

Solmi’s work is part of many notable collections including The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.; Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL; Tarble Art Center, Charleston, IL; 21C Museum Hotels, Knoxville, TN; Thoma Foundation, Chicago, IL / Santa Fe, NM; OCAT, Oct Contemporary Art Terminal, Shanghai, China; Collezione Farnesina Experimenta, Rome, Italy; Dr. Arturo and Liza Mosquera Collection, Miami, FL; and Collezione Marchina, Milan, Italy.

Douche Bag City, 2010-2011

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Federico Solmi’s video installation, Douche Bag City—consisting of 15 individual hand-drawn animated videos—is conceived as a satire of the capitalist world immersed in the economic crisis. The protagonist, Dick Richman, is an egotistical Wall Street broker condemned to live in Douche Bag City, tasked with a mission to survive within the different chapters of a video-game like display. Each mission ends with Richman being killed by a different plethora of malignant creatures including spiders, monsters, and zombies.

 

Richman is understood to be an incarnation of Bernard Madoff, the investment Wall Street manager and philanthropist charged with an alleged fraud of $50 billion. Madoff, a figure from the core of the US financial establishment (NASDAQ), was well-respected for his involvement in different charitable activities. Richman and Madoff represent a Wall Street archetype navigating Manhattan, ever-present at fundraising galas and Uptown cultural events. How many Dick Richman’s are still out there?

 

Douche Bag City presents a departure from Solmi’s previously optimistic tone—a darker message with no possibility of redemption. Douche Bag City maintains the admirable freshness of style earlier aesthetics, while expressing maturity in concept and execution of the work. Solmi dissects the stratum of the cultural context through a personal universe populated by a repertoire of heroes and anti-heroes, villains and swine, working in concert to disembowel the American modus operandi. 

 

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