By Jenifer Mangione Vogt, Art & Italian culture writer
Francesco Simeti is a contemporary Italian artist that was born in Palermo, Sicily and now divides his time between Sicily and New York. He’s primarily an installation artist, who creates large site-specific works that are imaginative and complex. His work is currently on display at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami as part of their Contemporary Arts Project (CAP), a commission program that invites artists to develop site-specific projects inspired by Miami’s most popular National Historic Landmark. The exhibit is titled, “Francesco Simeti: A seahorse, a caravel and large quantities of concrete, stone, fill, topsoil, tiles, piping, trees, and other plants”
Simeti’s work often deals with complex, weighty subject matter that is treated in a fairly light-hearted manner. This is evident in his early “wallpaper” work from 2002 and 2003, in works such as “Watching the War” and “Arabian Nights.” In both, he chose to comment on the Afghanistan war by depicting images drawn from the war in a repetitive pattern in decorative wallpaper installed in various locations. Simeti’s work, in its essence, hinges on the investigation of artifice, whether in the context of nature, or within manmade environs.
In 2008 he created an installation, which contained his signature decorative wallpaper, called “Acrobazie.” This exhibition was the result of a six-month collaboration with the patients of a Milan Psychiatric Institution, during which time they conceived of a dream home, pivoting on images of Audubon’s birds and the Uutopian, white-fence type architecture of the 50’s and 60’s that represented an idyllic, albeit inherently unattainable, ideal of urban family life.
At Vizcaya, which is a historic villa, Simeti has transformed an outdoor fountain into a surreal theatrical set, providing a playful and melancholic commentary on the fragility of human endeavors. Inspired by the mechanical apparatuses that simulated natural phenomena in Baroque gardens, Simeti’s animated assemblage is composed of floating sculptures representing elements of the estate. The project continues in the Main House exhibition room with an installation of historic artifacts pulled from storage and on display for the first time ever.
Simeti is currently working on several permanent projects for New York City’s public schools and subway system, and has created site specific installations for the MACRO in Rome, the RISD School of Design Museum in Providence, Rhode Island, the Art & Idea Gallery in Mexico City, and for Columbia University in New York City.
“Francesco Simeti: A seahorse, a caravel and large quantities of concrete, stone, fill, topsoil, tiles, piping, trees, and other plants” is on view at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens until May 21, 2012. Vizcaya is open daily from 9:30am to 4:30pm except Tuesdays. 3251 South Miami Avenue | Miami, FL 33129 | www.vizcayamuseum.org | 305.250.9133
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