Ethiopian artist Elias Sime at James Cohan this April

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Ethiopian artist Elias Sime at James Cohan this April
Installation view of Tightrope: It is Green 4, 2023.

NEW YORK, NY.- TIGHTROPE: አረንጔዴ ነው (IT IS GREEN), an exhibition of new work by the Ethiopian artist Elias Sime, which will open this coming Saturday, April 1 at 48 Walker Street, this is the artist’s fifth solo exhibition at James Cohan.

Elias Sime deftly weaves, layers and assembles reclaimed technological components into abstract compositions, often on a monumental scale. Sime moves fluidly between suggestions of topography, figuration, sublime color fields, and sculptural relief, allowing his materials to guide his transformative process. His works serve as records of the global exchange of commodities, and express the tenuousness of our interconnected world, alluding to the frictions between tradition and progress, human contact and social networks, nature and the man-made, and physical presence and the virtual.

The works in this exhibition represent a new chapter within Sime’s ongoing Tightrope series, whose title reflects the precarious balance between the advancement technology has made possible and its detrimental impact on the environment. All the works in TIGHTROPE: አረንጔዴ ነው (IT IS GREEN) are, in fact, red. This dissonance reflects Sime’s desire to push against didactic or prescriptive descriptions of his work. As he notes: “I make my art with freedom, and I want viewers to freely interpret them from their own points of view.”

Working within a restricted palette allows the artist to explore subtle, undulating shifts in tonality across the braided wire panels of each composition. Hand-carved sculptural elements–shaped like leaves, flower petals, and branches–are also tightly encased within the same braided and coiled wire. This fluency between two and three dimensions is a hallmark of Sime’s multi-faceted practice, informed by his ambitious civic architectural work in his home city of Addis Ababa.

Elias and his longtime collaborator and Zoma Museum cofounder Meskerem Assegued will be in town for the opening. Please let me know if you’d like to speak with them while they are here.

Elias Sime (b.1968 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) deftly weaves, layers and assembles carefully selected everyday materials, transforming commonplace items into lyrical abstract compositions that suggest topography, figuration, and color fields. He often creates intricate works from electronic components—including circuit boards, computer keys, and telecommunications wires. For Sime, the history of these materials hold meaning and their significance emerges after thorough consideration. They suggest the tenuousness of our interconnected world, alluding to the frictions between tradition and progress, human contact and social networks, nature and the man-made, and physical presence and the virtual.

Sime’s work achieves effects from dense narrative to austere modernist abstraction. He is as interested in a stripped motherboard from a mobile phone as he is an animal skull or worn-out button: the artist looks past the emotional weighting of new versus old, instead finding renewal everywhere, and taking greatest interest in the way that objects and ideas can connect in new ways.

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