Fred Tomaselli, a mid-career survey featuring the artists 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 Tomasellis 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 Museums presentation.
Tomasellis 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, Tomasellis 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 Tomasellis recent exploration of individual birds. The former represents an owl composed of hundreds of cut-out eyes while the letter 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.