Two new exhibitions opened at the Santa Monica Museum of Art January 24th and will close on April 18th.

The West Coast debut of new paintings that explore the American condition, “Arnold Mesches: Coming Attractions,” is a new exhibition of Mesches’ work, curated by Lisa Melandri, the museum’s deputy director for exhibitions and programs.

The exhibition features selections from Mesches’ most recent series, including landscapes and interiors. Mesches has created figurative work for more than six decades and his most recent work delves into dark periods of American history and situates them in a hauntingly contemporary landscape, according, said museum spokeswoman Beth Laski, adding that his work combines an interest in 20th century political and social conflicts with a surrealist approach to painting.

The other show, “Elias SimÈ: Eye of the Needle, Eye of the Heart,” is billed as the first survey exhibition in the United States of one of Ethiopia’s most original and prolific contemporary artists.

Co-curated by Ethiopian curator and anthropologist Meskerem Assegued and theater, opera and multi-disciplinary artist Peter Sellars, the exhibition includes more than 100 works in a variety of mediums, scale, and forms.

Using yarn, plastics, tattered fabric, buttons, used plastic, and bottle tops, each of the collages and stitched canvases SimÈ creates for Eye of the Needle, Eye of the Heart represent a complete essay about the current state of his surroundings, according to Laski.

Born in Cherkos, outside Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, SimÈ graduated from Addis Ababa University’s School of Fine Art and Design with a degree in graphic design. His work focuses mainly on collages, stitches, and three-dimensional sculpture, according to Laski.

SimÈ has had solo shows, and has participated in group exhibitions at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Peter Sellars’s New Crowned Hope in Vienna, Austria; the Dak’Art Biennale 2004, in Dakar, Senegal and the Zoma Contemporary Art Center and the National Museum in Addis Ababa.

SimÈ’s three-dimensional sculptures are made with traditional organic Ethiopian building materials such as mud and straw, as well as wood, metal, and other found objects, gathered in part by neighborhood children.

Laski says a highlight of the exhibition is a series of striking thrones made of leather, wood, mud and straw, which will be integrated into conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen’s final Los Angeles Philharmonic concerts staged by Sellars in mid-April, according to Laski,.

The artist has deep connections with the communities he documents, says Laski, in particular with the neighborhood children who bring him objects they collect from the street.

The Santa Monica Museum of Art is at Bergamot Station, Building G1, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and is closed Sundays, Mondays, and all legal holidays.

Information, (310) 586-6488 or www/smmoa.org/.

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