Ethiopian artist Elias Sime creates monumental modular artworks out of salvaged technological materials including electrical wires, circuit boards, keyboards, and other computer parts. Currents 118: Elias Sime will showcase 12 new and recent works, including two new freestanding sculptures.
Sime sources his supplies from the Merkato in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the largest open-air market in Africa, sometimes waiting years to accumulate a significant amount of an item. He breaks, weaves, collages, and burns these materials before affixing them to modular panels that are put together into large assemblages. From a distance, these works resemble abstract paintings. Some suggest images of landscapes, outlines of figures, or aerial views of imagined cities. Yet, closer looking reveals that the compositions are made of woven wires, broken computer keys, motherboards, and other once functional materials. Currents 118 represents a new direction for Sime; he has created two large-scale, colorful domes for the exhibition. These sculptures were inspired by his visit to Saint Louis and the Cahokia Mounds in present-day Illinois.
Sime’s works reference both Western art history and traditional Ethiopian textiles and architecture and are created using local, Ethiopian techniques for weaving wire. Rather than seeing the discarded objects he collects as recycled items, Sime is interested in how they are reclaimed and given new life in art. By transforming the discarded into the extraordinary, Sime allows us to see things in new ways.
The exhibition is curated by Hannah Klemm, associate curator of modern and contemporary art, with Molly Moog, research assistant.
Currents 118: Elias Sime is supported by the Dana Brown Endowed Fund for Education and Community Programs and by a grant from the Trio Foundation of St. Louis.