My Volition at Matthew Brown Gallery. 2021

The compulsion to excavate teeters between a need to secure our holdings and an insecurity concerning what could be revealed in the act of uncovering. In Simonetti’s My Volition, her first solo exhibition at Matthew Brown Los Angeles, the artist elicits dog legs and shovels, implements for upending and burying while never revealing the nature of what has been hidden. And yet, we most often bury things into the earth because they are worth retrieving. This strategy operates like fear itself, ballooning as the object of panic becomes increasingly abstract. It is a framing device typical of Simonetti, whose exhibitions double as stages for our projected trepidations and the matrixes of control we generate in their defence.

A dog’s aggression offers one man’s protection and another man’s threat. This ambiguous image, like the rabbit-duck, is here translated into precise renderings conjuring the canine at its most violent or submissive: its cavernous jaw and soft underbelly. The latter nests another set of paradoxes as the canine’s exposed testicles appear as a pronouncement of both the animal’s virility and man’s complete control over its reproduction. The history of warfare has underlined how the shovel, primarily a tool for excavation, can instantly become a weapon if the need arises, only to swiftly revert to its original function as this violence begets burial.

Produced arduously by the artist’s own hand, the deftly carved stone sculptures reveal objects made through a personal process of quarrying. Simonetti has selected stone which forefront the changing state of metamorphic rock, where milky marble commingles with translucent calcite. Carved down to a paper-thin blade, the calcite shovel’s spade is rendered less effective in its expected functions of gouging and excavating.

The exhibition continues with intricate panes of stained glass floating over barbershop posters, their quatrefoils coronating the men’s newly buzzed heads. While enshrined and sanctified, these generic images of men are mediated, enabling an added level of scrutiny. The posters are preserved in a moment of transmutation; Simonetti sources these plasticized sheets from local hairdressers, pulling them from windows so as to halt time and the elements which further their bleaching.

- Loreta Lamargese

Rebecca Simonetti