Where some might see unwanted cast-offs from Africa’s largest open market, Elias Sime sees art waiting to happen. The Ethiopian artist gleans bits and baubles from vendors at Addis Ababa‘s famed Merkato, and turns them into thought-provoking art works. Recently opened at the James Cohan Gallery in Chelsea, Sime’s solo exhibition comprises a conglomeration of computer parts, textile pieces, hand-dyed fibers and plastic bits. The sculptural collages not only repurpose leftovers from the consumerist frenzy of the market, but also make a statement about the rise of technology and modernity in the traditional city of Addis Ababa.



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Sime’s works showcase a representation of the dizzyingly diverse wares that can be found for sale at the Addis Ababa open-air market. Organic and traditionalist materials like hand-dyed textiles are met with utilitarian bottle tops, plastic, thread and buttons. These common items are paired with computer and electric parts like colorful wire, broken fragments of motherboards, electrical plugs and connections for an unexpected mashup. Although the mediums vary, they are treated with similar processes, from artistic collaging to traditional Ethiopian braiding.

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The mismatched elements highlight not only the progress of the Ethiopian market, but also the leftover garbage from this “progress.” In addition to countless plastic parts and electrical scraps, toxic materials can regularly be found littering the streets around the markets.

Sime’s exhibition will run until October 17th.

+ James Cohan Gallery