Fred Tomaselli is known around the world for intricate, engulfing images of earthly and cosmic realms made by suspending collage and painted imagery as well as an unorthodox array of real-world materials in thick layers of clear, epoxy resin. These works on wood panels mix snippets of botanical, ornithological and anatomical illustrations cut from books and magazines, prescription pills, medicinal herbs and psychoactive plants with the artist’s own designs. Tomaselli sees his mixture of psychedelic imagery and substances as windows into hallucinatory universes: “It is my ultimate aim to seduce and transport the viewer into the space of these pictures while simultaneously revealing the mechanics of that seduction.”
The human condition, the natural world and the daily news are among the subjects Tomaselli explores in the resin works. In Untitled (Expulsion) (2000), he reimagines the Adam and Eve figures from Masaccio’s Expulsion from the Garden of Eden (1426-27) leaving paradise, their nervous systems illustrated in red, under cosmic rays composed of lines of pills, mushrooms, marijuana leaves and fragments of two-dimensional plant and human-body imagery. In Hummingbird (2004) he depicts the eponymous bird, its plumage a collage of hundreds of tiny, colourful images of flowers, feeding from a flowering plant, the curling tendrils of which call to mind swirling nebulae.
Tomaselli also makes works on paper combining collage and painted imagery, including a series reworking main, above-the-fold photographs from the New York Times. In it the subjects of these newspaper photographs mutate into strange creatures or dissolve into colourful, psychedelic patterns. Inspired in large part by the chaos following the 2020 US presidential election, he says that these intuitive responses to what he calls “global weirding” are “not just a deep dive into world events, they are also an escape from these events through the making of art.
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 Art on the Battlefront, Vogue Ukraine (2022); Rail Curatorial Projects, New York (2022); The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum, Saratoga Springs, New York (2022); SaveArtSpace London (2021); Camden Arts Centre, London (2020); Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (2019); The FLAG Art Foundation, New York (2017); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2016); 1st Kiev Biennale Arsenale (2014); CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (2011); 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010); 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).