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Fred Tomaselli Opens at Irish Museum of Modern Art
Fred Tomaselli, Expecting to Fly, 2002, Photocollage, leaves, acrylic, gouache and resin on wood panel, 122 x 122cm, Collection of Janice and Mickey Cartin.

DUBLIN, IRELAND.- The first exhibition in Ireland of the work of the New York-based painter Fred Tomaselli opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday 9 March 2005. Fred Tomaselli: Monsters of Paradise comprises some 15 recent works, which employ a dazzling array of materials to create rich and beautiful paintings revealing an intensely personal vision of the world. Most have been made since 2002 and show the artist’s greater emphasis on combining the figurative with the abstract that dates from that period.

Drawing on influences from Indian miniatures to punk rock, Tomaselli’s collaged paintings are remarkable compendia of natural and unnatural worlds. They are characterised by the use of unorthodox materials, such as over-the-counter medicines, prescription pills, herbal remedies and psychoactive plants, creating parallels between the mind-altering properties of these substances and the long-standing idea of painting as a window on another reality. Real pills sit alongside painted pills, while cut-out photographs of flowers, leaves and insects jostle for attention with their carefully-pressed and preserved real-life counterparts. His more recent works extend this range of ingredients to whole figures crafted from magazine cut-outs of animal and human body parts, resulting in scenes in which flayed figures, consisting only of flesh and veins, inhabit a surreal, vividly-patterned cosmos.

In Field Guides, 2003, we see a figure hoeing mushrooms pursued by a cloud of butterflies. The handle of his hoe is made from several smaller hoes and, although rogue elements do appear throughout his body, his hands are made of hands and his feet of feet. Airborne Event, 2003, features a female form whose head has mutated into a hexagon of tightly-packed lips, noses and eyes, this in turn being surrounded by mosaic-like patterns of flowers, birds and mushrooms. Tomaselli sees his vast range of materials as interchangeable, “all capable of manipulating reality in perpetual, hazardless potentiality. It is my ultimate aim to seduce and transport the viewer into the space of these pictures while simultaneously revealing the mechanics of the seduction”.

Born in Santa Monica, California, in 1956, Fred Tomaselli grew up so close to Disneyland that, as he has described it, “I could sit on my roof and watch Tinkerbell fly through the night sky”. Fascinated by artifice, he plunged into the prevailing counter culture of 1970s Los Angeles before moving to New York in 1985, where he continues to live and work. Solo exhibitions have included the Albright-Knox Gallery of Art, Buffalo, New York; the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris, New York, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art. His work has featured in group exhibition worldwide, including at the 2004 Whitney Biennial; the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany; the 2002 Liverpool Biennial and the 2001 Berlin Biennial. His works are held by a number of major American museums, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum, New York, and the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, and in many private collections.

Monsters of Paradise is a touring exhibition, organised by the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, where it was shown in 2004. It has also been shown at Domus Atrium, Salamanca, Spain, and will visit the Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, following its showing at IMMA.

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March 9, 2005

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