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Fin Simonetti’s current solo exhibition at Matthew Brown Gallery, My Volition, has a canine fixation, though the dog in question is notably absent. The pastel-hued palette and delicate materiality of Simonetti’s sculptures juxtapose their harsh, visceral imagery. Simonetti’s references—a pitbull’s open snarl, a kicking dog’s hind, a shovel—gesture toward pain, aggression, and violence. These forms, hand-carved from Portuguese pink marble and honeycomb calcite, precariously balance on a thin steel rail, resulting in an anxious energy that pervades the exhibition. Aggressive allusions simmer beneath the beauty of their rendering.
The carved animal parts embalmed in smooth stone are fractured—a snout, a paw, an underbelly with tail, a pair of testicles, and a puckered anus. Divorced from their whole, they act as anxious symbols, remaining mysteriously vague. Similarly, a series of works made of stained glass planes laid atop found barbershop posters of men modeling haircuts, are fractured into parts, spliced by the panes of glass. In some works, translucent glass shapes frame certain body parts: ears in Chapel 4 and Cathedral 10, noses in Chapel 3, or withdrawn faces in Cathedrals 6, 8, and 9 (all works 2021). The attention to the shared subdued expressions of the men pictured functions as an oblique reference to male emotion. This is further punctuated by the opaqueness of the murky glass that either shields or reveals their gazes; a parallel to the stereotypically hidden interior lives of men. Like flashbacks with no through line, the poster fragments that Simonetti elects to share are hard to read. By withholding additional clues or information, Simonetti destabilizes our perception, ultimately leaving it unclear whether the compositions are ambivalently humorous or deathly serious (or both). The pious titles of these works remark on the traditional use of stained glass, while the ornate colored glass and patterned metal further adorn the male figures, elevating the ritualistic yet mundane act of grooming.
Materially, the sculptures’ milky marble and cloudy stained glass work together in a pas de deux to blur cognizance; after the initial disorientation, the medium and meaning are inextricably linked via their concurrent fragility and strength. The timely phrase “male fragility” resonates throughout the exhibition, furthered by the artist’s mediums, both of which are physically arduous and often still associated with a historically male craftsmanship and apprenticeship. Still, both glass and stone are fragile, and Simonetti muddies the mediums’ masculine connotations, pointing out the delicate balance upon which such legacies sit. Ultimately, My Volition is more concerned with drawing feeling than meaning, leaving viewers lingering in its darkness, obscurity, and haunting beauty. A sense of the isolating and fracturing traumas inflicted by patriarchy pulses beneath the seductive surface of Simonetti’s objects.
Fin Simonetti: My Volition runs from March 25–May 8, 2021 at Matthew Brown (633 N. La Brea Ave., Suite 101, Los Angeles, CA 90036).