EYE OF THE NEEDLE, EYE OF THE HEART: ELIAS SIME (2009), The Santa Monica Museum of Art presented Elias Sime: Eye of the Needle, Eye of the Heart, the first survey exhibition in the United States of one of Ethiopia’s most original and prolific contemporary artists. The exhibition, co-curated by Meskerem Assegued, a revered Ethiopian curator and anthropologist, and visionary theater, opera, and multi-disciplinary arts impresario, Peter Sellars. The exhibition is comprised different kinds of works in a variety of mediums, scale, and forms. A highlight of the exhibition is a series of striking thrones made of leather, wood, was integrated into conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen’s final Los Angeles Philharmonic concerts staged by Sellars. In addition to the thrones, Elias' intricately carved seven wooden masks representing the seven characters of Oedipus Rex commissioned by Sellars were part of the performance.
This exhibition was accompanied by a short documentary film made by award-winning filmmakers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine).
Using yarn, plastics, tattered fabric, buttons, used plastic, and bottle tops, each of the collages and stitched canvases Sime created represented a complete essay about the current state of his surroundings. The three-dimensional wall sculptures were made with wood, metal, and other objects.
It was Sellars’ passion for Sime’s work that initially inspired SMMoA’s executive director Elsa Longhauser to consider the idea of this exhibition. During their conversations, Sellars explained that Sime’s thrones moved therefore he was determined to feature the them in his production of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and Symphony of Psalms, Salonen’s final concerts on April 16, 17, 18 and 19. Sime was one of the visual artists represented by Assegued who was the visual art curator of Sellars’ 2006 New Crowned Hope Festival, a celebration of Mozart’s 250th anniversary in Vienna, Austria.
The installation included five wooden wall sculptures, stitched canvases, mud and straw miniature sculptures, stuffed goat skins and video installations.