Akron—From a distance, Ethiopian artist Elias Sime’s artworks appear to be large-scale abstract paintings. Upon closer inspection, their complexity and nontraditional materials become apparent. Sime’s tableaus are not paintings at all, but breathtaking compositions assembled from thousands of motherboards, buttons, computer keyboard keys and electrical wires. Visitors to the Akron Art Museum can experience Sime’s work in person when Elias Sime: Tightrope opens on Saturday, February 29, 2020. Tightrope is Sime’s first major traveling survey and contains two works created specifically for the exhibition, exhibited alongside several earlier stitched canvases.
Curator of Exhibitions Theresa Bembnister said, “Despite their massive scale, Sime’s works invite contemplation. Many pieces are eight or nine feet tall with some being more than 15 feet long, creating an immersive visual experience. His choice of materials encourages close looking.“
Sime develops a concept for an artwork and then sources the materials, sometimes taking years to realize the final composition depending on his success locating sufficient quantities of specific items. For this purpose, the artist searches stores and marketplaces to purchase both new and used items.
Despite his practice of reuse, Sime maintains his work is not about recycling, but rather is about his attraction to the properties of nontraditional materials. He sees latent beauty in functional objects and seeks to challenge traditional ideas about which types of media are appropriate for creating fine art. Additionally, he invites the audience to engage in an open dialogue about sustainability.
Tightrope refers to a series of artworks Sime has created over the last decade and also serves as the exhibition’s title. The balancing act it implies relates to the advancements technology has made possible, as well as its potentially detrimental impact as a mediator of our personal interactions and lived experiences.
“It becomes so much a part of us that we can’t even disconnect from it. It actually takes us from being human,” Sime says. “If you don’t talk to people face to face, you won’t understand complex issues, complex personalities, love, relationships.”
Sime weaves his materials into breathtaking artworks that express a sense of personal connection, saying, “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.”
Elias Sime: Tightrope opens at the Akron Art Museum on Saturday, February 29, 2020 with a members’ preview launch party from 11:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M., featuring curator-led tours of the exhibition and other activities to enhance the experience of the exhibition. Museum members receive complimentary admission. Nonmember admission is $12. Registration is requested at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/elias-sime-tightrope-members-preview-tickets-91148219779
Elias Sime: Tightrope is organized by the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College, Clinton, New York. Curated by Tracy L. Adler, the Wellin Museum’s Johnson-Pote Director, the exhibition was on view there from September 7 through December 8, 2019. Following its presentation in Akron, the exhibition will travel to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri (June 11 through September 13, 2020), and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada (October 24, 2020 through February 21, 2021).
Its presentation in Akron is made possible through the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Ohio Arts Council; The Tom and Marilyn Merryweather Fund; the Kenneth L. Calhoun Charitable Trust, KeyBank, Trustee; Katie and Mark Smucker; and Mr. and Mrs. Joseph S. Kanfer.