New resin-encased collages by Fred Tomaselli capture the friction of two realities: The drug-like buzz of reading the news with the consistent beauty of life and the universe. His newest works are on view at the James Cohan Gallery in Tribeca while a fantastic 8-minute mini-documentary of the process and ideas can be viewed online (we’ve embedded it at the end).
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Born in California in 1956, Fred Tomaselli is well-known for incorporating real drugs into his paintings. Beginning in the early 90’s, he encased real pills (both over-the-counter and “psychoactive”) and other materials within thick layers of clear resin to create colorful kaleidoscopic collages.
Recently, Tomaselli has dropped the pills (though hemp leaves often remain) in exchange for a new type of “buzz”: the onslaught of media headlines. Preserved in thick resin, fragments of The New York Times jump out as partial sparks of recognition or blur together in an overwhelming hum of never-ending chatter. Text swirls like a violent wind, pierces through clouds like sun rays or spirals like a hypnosis device.
Though dazzlingly colorful and weightless, the larger narrative is often darker than it first appears. For example, the colorful feathers of birds are created from countless images of plastic products while flames and smoke that may recall the California wildfires. And yet through it all, a whirling spiritual energy feels dreamlike and surreal, recalling something beyond our normal perception.
In addition to the eight large resin paintings, Tomaselli is also presenting 14 altered newspaper headlines. Though this series began in 2005, every newspaper featured here was published and created during the pandemic. Tomaselli cuts, adds or alters an image to produce a jarring conflict of emotions with the day’s headline. Psychedelic rainbows and swilling backgrounds smash into current events. It’s difficult to know what to feel, which only adds to their intrigue and disbelief.
The 8-minute mini-documentary is well worth your time (below). Produced by James Cohan Gallery and filmed in Fred Tomaselli’s studio, it’s nothing short of inspirational.
I’d also recommend a quick visit to the gallery’s digital viewing site for more images and quotes from the artist.
All image: © Fred Tomaselli 2020. Courtesy the artist and James Cohan, New York. Photographs by Phoebe d’Heurle.
Video is courtesy James Cohan, New York.