The Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art will present the work of contemporary Ethiopian artist Elias Sime (b. 1968) in an exhibition titled Elias Sime: Tightrope opening Saturday, Sept. 7, through Sunday, Dec. 8. The exhibition; the opening on Saturday, Sept. 7, from 4 to 6 p.m.; and the Artist’s Conversation from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. on the same day are free and open to the public.
As part of the exhibition, the artist created a site-specific sculpture at the Wellin Museum titled Flowers & Roots, inspired by peonies found in Hamilton’s gardens, with their twisted and complicated roots exposed. Flowers and Roots was constructed with the assistance of a group of students during the summer. At more than nine feet tall and seventeen feet wide, the work is comprised of repurposed computer parts, electrical wire, bronze, and cement.
The exhibition title, Tightrope, refers to the precarious balance between the progress technology has made possible and its detrimental impact on the environment and features more than 25 works of art of varying scales. In addition, the exhibition will include a selection of works from his earlier series Ants and Ceramicists, comprising stitched yarn on dyed canvas and often incorporating found objects within the stitching, a commentary on the resiliency and community of both ants and traditional artisans.
Artforum published an interview with Sime on Sept. 2 titled Elias Sime on living and working with technology in which he reflects on his and society's engagement with technology as well as his focus on Saunders peonies.
Sime’s brightly colored tableaus are made from found materials including thread, buttons, bottle caps, electrical wires, and computer detritus. Repurposing salvaged electronic components—such as circuits and keyboards—that the artist often buys at the open-air market in his hometown Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he lives and works, Sime creates his intricately woven compositions. These works highlight the often overlooked or unseen beauty of the humble materials he employs as well as the problems of environmental sustainability they present.
“Elias Sime is one of the most significant artists working today,” Tracy Adler, the exhibition’s curator and the Wellin’s Johnson-Pote Director, explains. “He is both critical and embracing of the world we live in and brings a truly global sensibility to his work without losing any of its authenticity and authorship. While technology has in many ways changed our lives for the better and facilitated international communication and partnership, it has resulted in detrimental byproducts both materially in terms of its refuse, and socially and culturally, in that we look more to our devices than to each other.”
Adds Sime, “My art is a reflection of who I am as a human being without borders, labels and imposed identity. There is a sense of unity and cooperation that I reflect through my art. At the root of all of it is love and passion. With this exhibition, including many years of my work, I hope the students and other visitors will share my feelings expressed on the arts.”
Opened in 2012, the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art combines advances in interdisciplinary approaches with object-based learning. As a teaching museum, the Wellin serves students, faculty, and the broader community, encouraging observation, exploration, and engagement.
Curated by Adler, Elias Sime: Tightrope will travel to the Akron Art Museum in Akron, Ohio (Feb. 29 through May 24, 2020), the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri (June 11 through Sept.13, 2020), and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada (Dec. 12, 2020 through April 18, 2021).
Sime’s work has been shown internationally at the Dak’Art Biennale in Dakar, Senegal; the New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna, Austria; and in the United States at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.