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Fred Tomaselli

DATES October 8, 2010 through January 2, 2011
COLLECTIONS Contemporary Art
  • Fred Tomaselli
    This exhibition presents a focused survey of the career of Brooklyn-based artist Fred Tomaselli (American, born 1956), tracing thematic threads and pictorial strategies that have run throughout his work for the past twenty years. An object from 1990 marks the beginning of his mature work, while a selection of new pieces made for this venue bring it into the present. The natural world—gardens, landscapes, birds, insects, butterflies, and plants—often provides a point of departure for his paintings. Characterized by lush color and a profusion of images and objects obsessively arranged in eye-popping compositions, Tomaselli’s paintings create inviting, visionary worlds.

    Although they are called paintings, Tomaselli’s hybrid works might as easily be characterized as collages. He assembles them from areas of paint; plants; pills; and photographic images culled from field guides, fashion magazines, medical journals, and, more recently, the Internet. The artist scans the images so he can manipulate their size, prints them, and cuts them out. He then selects a number of elements to put into play on a primarily black panel, painstakingly building up a series of superimposed layers, each containing hundreds of different elements glued down and imbedded in epoxy resin.

    Shaped by a range of sources from art history and popular culture, Tomaselli’s aesthetic is highly eclectic. The continuum of influences includes punk rock; the artificial reality of Disneyland; Indian miniatures; the work of artists such as James Turrell, Sol LeWitt, Ed Ruscha, and Henry Darger; psychedelic album covers; quilts; and California surfing culture.

    By opening doors onto new realities, Tomaselli’s visually seductive paintings provide a temporary refuge from the familiar, offering fresh possibilities of looking at and experiencing the world.
  • April 30, 2010: Fred Tomaselli, a mid-career survey featuring the artist’s two-dimensional works from the late 1980s to the present, will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum from October 8, 2010, through January 2, 2011. This exhibition focuses on the trajectory of Tomaselli’s career, from early experiments with photograms and collage to recent paintings and prints that combine abstraction with allusions to current events. Fred Tomaselli includes more than forty artworks and will feature collages and paintings created specifically for the Brooklyn Museum’s presentation.

    Tomaselli’s work reveals a uniquely American vision that celebrates the psychedelic and the alternative. Growing up near the desert in southern California, Tomaselli was influenced by both the manufactured reality of theme parks and the music and drug countercultures of Los Angeles in the 1970s and ’80s. His distinctive melding of these influences forms an updated, personalized, folk-driven vision of the American West.

    An avid and idiosyncratic collector who is interested in botany and ornithology, Tomaselli amasses prescription pills, hallucinogenic plants, and other drugs, along with images of plants, flowers, birds, and anatomical illustrations carefully cut from books. Pulling from this visual archive, he creates richly decorated surfaces that are composed of hundreds of found images. Combining these unusual materials and paint under layers of clear epoxy resin, Tomaselli’s highly stylized artworks merge the printed image or the photographic image with areas painted by hand.

    A few of the earlier paintings in the exhibition reference Minimalism, such as Black and White All Over (1993), in which Tomaselli laboriously organized rows and columns of prescription pills. Other early works experimented with the photographic, like Portrait of John (1995), in which Tomaselli used a photogram, an image made by placing objects directly onto the surface of a photo-sensitive material, to create an astrological map loosely based off the drug history of his subject. Other highlights include Avian Flower Serpent (2006), a large, intimidating bird clutching a snake against an exploding background of painted and collaged imagery; Super Plant (1994), an image of the tree of life painstakingly created with plant matter; and Untitled (2000), a depiction of Adam and Eve being expelled from heaven with a large psychedelic nucleus radiating in the background.

    Fred Tomaselli emerged in the California art scene creating installations and performance art in the early 1980s. In 1986, he moved to New York, where he was one of the pioneering artists of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Tomaselli’s work has been shown extensively worldwide, in both galleries and museums, from the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York to the White Cube gallery in London. He continues to live and work in Brooklyn.

    This exhibition is organized by the Aspen Art Museum and The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College. The Brooklyn Museum presentation is coordinated by Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum.

    The Brooklyn Museum is the third and final venue for Fred Tomaselli. The exhibition originated at the Aspen Art Museum (August 1–October 11, 2009) and then travelled to The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York (February 6–June 6, 2010).


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  • August 31, 2010: Fred Tomaselli, a mid-career survey featuring the artist’s two-dimensional works from the late 1980s to the present, will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum from October 8, 2010, through January 2, 2011. This exhibition focuses on the trajectory of Tomaselli’s career, from early experiments with photograms and collage to recent paintings and prints that combine abstraction with allusions to current events. Fred Tomaselli includes more than forty artworks and will feature collages and paintings created specifically for the Brooklyn Museum’s presentation.

    Tomaselli’s work reveals a uniquely American vision that celebrates the psychedelic and the alternative. Growing up near the desert in southern California, Tomaselli was influenced by both the manufactured reality of theme parks and the music counterculture of Los Angeles in the 1970s and ’80s. His distinctive melding of these influences forms an updated, personalized, folk-driven vision of the American West.

    An avid and idiosyncratic collector who is interested in botany and ornithology, Tomaselli amasses prescription pills, along with images of plants, flowers, birds, and anatomical illustrations carefully cut from books. Pulling from this visual archive, he creates richly decorated surfaces that are composed of hundreds of found images. Combining these unusual materials and paint under layers of clear epoxy resin, Tomaselli’s highly stylized artworks merge the printed or photographic image with areas painted by hand.

    A few of the earlier paintings in the exhibition reference Minimalism, such as Black and White All Over (1993), in which Tomaselli laboriously organized rows and columns of prescription pills. Other early works experimented with the photographic, like Portrait of John (1995), in which Tomaselli used a photogram, an image made by placing objects directly on the surface of a photo-sensitive material to create an astrological map loosely based on the drug history of his subject. Other highlights include Avian Flower Serpent (2006), a large, intimidating bird clutching a snake against an exploding background of painted and collaged imagery; Super Plant (1994), an image of the tree of life painstakingly created with plant matter; and Untitled (2000), a depiction of Adam and Eve being expelled from heaven with a large psychedelic nucleus radiating in the background.

    The two artworks specifically created for this exhibition, Night Music for Raptors and Starling, are large-scale painting collages that continue Tomaselli’s recent exploration of individual birds. The former represents an owl composed of hundreds of cut-out eyes while the latter depicts the head of a starling set against an exuberantly brushed background. Also included in this exhibition for their U.S. debut is a group of twelve recently created works on paper. With gouache and collage, Tomaselli transforms the front page of The New York Times and uses it as a backdrop for his pictorial interventions.

    Fred Tomaselli emerged in the California art scene creating installations and performance art in the early 1980s. In 1986, he moved to New York, where he was one of the pioneering artists of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. His work has been shown extensively worldwide, in both galleries and museums, from the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York to the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin. He continues to live and work in Brooklyn.

    This exhibition is organized and toured by the Aspen Art Museum and The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College. The Brooklyn Museum presentation is coordinated by Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum.

    Bloomberg is the presenting sponsor.

    Bloomberg is the world’s most trusted source of information for financial professionals and businesses. Bloomberg combines innovative technology with unmatched analytic, data, news, display and distribution capabilities, to deliver critical information via the Bloomberg Professional service and multimedia platforms, which span television, radio, digital and print.

    The exhibition has also received support from Sotheby’s; Glenstone; James Cohan Gallery; Susan and Leonard Feinstein Foundation; White Cube, London; Amanda and Glenn Fuhrman; Amy and John Phelan; Mickey Cartin; Greg Feldman and Melanie Shorin; Scott and Meg Mueller; and other generous donors.

    The Village Voice is media sponsor.

    The Brooklyn Museum is the third and final venue for Fred Tomaselli. The exhibition originated in the Aspen Art Museum (August 1–October 11, 2009) and then went to The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York (February 6–June 6, 2010).


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Fred Tomaselli