Assembly Room is pleased to present Refugium, a solo exhibition by Brooklyn-based Italian artist Francesco Simeti curated by Yulia Topchiy. In this site-specific installation consisting of ceramics and digital prints on linens that are ever complex, exotic and decorative, Simeti creates a tension between reality and fiction and nature and the artificial through rendering decorative frameworks that emerge from his appropriation of ready-made imagery of printed mass media. Furthermore, Simeti builds on this work to create artificial habitats where living organisms are trying to adapt to fast changing environments challenged by war and destruction, chaos and climate change, and seek refuge in a new, foreign flora fighting to preserve their own natural beauty and harmony.
In his billowing canvases depicting native floras, exotic plants placed in environmentally challenged landscapes, Simeti questions our own involvement, responsibility, cause and effect of our intrusive actions on nature. Inspired by his native Sicilian landscape, and the intensely personal, spiritually charged landscape paintings of Charles Burchfield, Simeti collages images of old herbariums from a rich archive of botanical illustrations that he has been assembling for years, weaving them together through a layering process and further digitally manipulating its landscape with images found in newspapers and magazines. His tangled ceramic eruptions of color and texture resembling flowers and plants descend from the ceiling, drip down pedestals and bulge upon the floor. Although lush and sensual, the sculptures appear rather dangerous, sharp-edged, almost charged and protective, embodying our own predicament.
What is undeniable is Simeti’s advocacy of resistance towards our aggressive behavior to nature dictated by the careless demands of the market economy. By using a visual vocabulary of the past that communicated different visions of the world, and by insisting on our daily and personal responsibilities for protecting the environment grinding towards increasing extinctions, Simeti stresses the need for constant questioning of the existential and political choices that we make each day. Simeti’s works become relics of the physicality and fragility of our environment shaped by nature’s forces and show his fascination with a new mode of refuge – the kind caused by human absence.
Francesco Simeti (b. 1968) is a visual artist based in New York whose distinctive position challenges the decorative. Within his landscape patterns, Simeti's thinking and research is concerned with undermining the ornamental as a source of esthetic pleasure by introducing crucial issues of society to the work. He is involved in a number of public art projects that have taken place mainly in the United States – for example, a New York City MTA 18th Ave on the D line Bensonhurst, in Brooklyn – and his wallpapers and sculptures form part of important museum collections, including the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt, the National Museum of Design (New York), the Victorian & Albert (London) and the Fabric Workshop and Museum in (Philadelphia).