Fred Tomaselli Solo Exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum

Fred Tomaselli, a mid-career survey featuring the artist’s two-dimensional works from the late 1980s tothe 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).

Image: Fred Tomaselli, Super Plant, 1994. Psychoactive plant material, acrylic, and resin on wood panel, 74 x 54 inches. Hort family collection. Copyright the artist. Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York

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