Fred Tomaselli makes exquisitely rendered paintings on wood panels, combining an array of unorthodox materials suspended in a thick layer of clear, epoxy resin. Medicinal herbs, prescription pills and hallucinogenic plants are combined with images cut from books and magazines: flowers, birds, butterflies, arms, legs and noses, for example, are worked into dazzling patterns that spread over the surface of the painting like a beautiful virus or growth. Tomaselli sees his paintings and their compendium of data as windows into a surreal, hallucinatory universe. “It is my ultimate aim”, he says, “to seduce and transport the viewer in to space of these pictures while simultaneously revealing the mechanics of that seduction.” Tomaselli has also incorporated allegorical figures into his work – in Untitled (Expulsion) (2000), for example, he borrows the Adam and Eve figures from Masaccio’s Expulsion from the Garden of Eden (1426-27), and in Field Guides (2003) he creates his own version of the grim reaper. His figures are described anatomically so that their organs and veins are exposed in the manner of a scientific drawing. He writes that his “inquiry into utopia/dystopia – framed by artifice but motivated by the desire for the real – has turned out to be the primary subject of my work”.
Fred Tomaselli was born in Santa Monica, California in 1956 and lives and works in New York. Solo exhibitions include Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska (2019); Oceanside Museum of Art, California (2018); Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio (2016); University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbour touring to Orange County Museum of Art, California (2014–15); Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas (2014); Aspen Art Museum, Colorado touring to The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum, Saratoga Springs, New York and Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York (2009–10); The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh touring to Domus Artium, Spain, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, The Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University, Massachusetts and White Cube London (2004–05); and Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, Florida touring to Site Santa Fe, New Mexico (2001–02). Selected group exhibitions include The Drawing Center, New York (2021); Camden Arts Centre, London (2020); Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2019); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2017); 1st Kiev Biennale Arsenale (2014); CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (2011); 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010); Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2009); Prospect 1, New Orleans (2008); 5th Site Santa Fe Biennial, New Mexico (2004); Whitney Biennial, New York (2004); Liverpool Biennale, Tate Liverpool, UK (2002); and Berlin Biennale (2001).