Hardening at Matthew Brown, LA. 24/11/2023 - 13/01/2024  

Fin Simonetti’s second solo exhibition at Matthew Brown, Hardening, is a study of affect theory in the key of sculpture through two distinct but interconnected bodies of work. The pair of conical stone sculptures (Hardening 1 & 2, 2023), hand-carved from orange honeycomb calcite and black Portoro marble, are a formal composite of two distinct high-low symbols of authority that exist in public space: the Gothic spire and traffic cones. Meanwhile, a series of modular black steel fencing winds through the gallery, regulating movement by partitioning and splicing space to create the architectural scaffolding for the artist’s love-lock bunny sculptures (Hardening 4–10, 2023), which are made by shearing fired ceramic with stone carving rasps, combined with steel and polyurethane and coated in industrial chrome.

Simonetti’s bunnies are ravaged like half-eaten game or a Velveteen Rabbit maimed by rough play—some are missing an ear, all are missing a leg. Thoroughly culturally metabolized, the bunny is a highly flexible symbol, whose ubiquity precipitates a loss of specificity. Simonetti’s bunny forms are hybrids of two disparate poles of reference: in one vein, anthropomorphized comfort objects (Disney’s Fantasia, stuffed animals, and chew toys), and in the other, semi- intact bodies rendered for consumption (Peking duck, pigs on a spit, rotisserie chicken). Combined, they negate each other, while pointing to the absence at the center: the actual animal. Processed through both an anthropomorphized (closer to humans) and abstracted (closer to object) lens, they reveal the hubris of human double-think, which imbues more or less sentience, depending on the need, to that which is deemed “other.”

Hardening plays out in the recursive note, one in which the syncopations, remixes, and rhythms of the artist’s repetitions of form suggest the messy ambiguities of the boundaries that regulate and demarcate the private or public, safety or threat. While a fence can literally block movement and flow, drivers slow down in response to traffic cones not because they are physically prevented from acting otherwise, but because they unconsciously adhere to a signal of restricted access. Love locks articulate a powerful private wish within the realm of the public and the real, serving as prosthetics to human fantasy. And guard dogs and talons, which re-appear in the conical sculptures as a longstanding motif of the artist’s, further denote the human drive towards domination and possession, while symbolically linking the two bodies of work. Here, Simonetti gestures and superposes the suffusion of materials, patterns, and paradoxes of these individual and social processes, reminding us that thrones have always tottered on fragile bases.

–Text by Hiji Nam

Rebecca simonetti