Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Fred Tomaselli

There I was, a young kid from the Midwest finding his way through a certain part of Manhattan. The part where there is alot of stuff to look at, ya know, galleries and stuff. I had been told by a good friend and recent NY transplant that seeing work in person is an uncomparable experience, so now here I was confronted by that reality. Some memorable shows include Andreas Gursky at Matthew Marks Gallery, David Lachapelle at Tony Shafrazi Gallery, and Glenn Brown At Gagosian. I appreciate being by myself when I do things like this, I choose my pace and follow my intuition. I had been borrowed a Fred Tomaselli book from my friend Nick some months earlier but had not had the opportunity to view the work in person. That was soon to change..
I rounded the corner in James Cotton Gallery unaffected by the current show. My guard was down, defenseless to what lied before me. The Tomaselli piece was of decent size, approx. 12'x7', I was drawn to it like I have rarely been drawn to work before. From the reproductions I had seen there was no way for me to understand the "spirit" of these works. Encapsulated forever in lush layers of resin, pills, cut out hands, flowers, insects, and marijuana leaves draped in swooping patterns through the branches of a tree. The color of each collaged piece luminous against a solid black. Extracted text from JAMES RONDEAU, a curator of modern and contemporary art at The Art Institute of Chicago, accurately summarizes Tomaselli's work;
At their best, these works are over-the-top decorative pile-ups—giddy, decadent, at times even embarrassing in their shameless embrace of once-taboo pleasures. Tomaselli’s keen exploitation of the beautiful, however, is largely self-conscious and deeply critical. A formally intuitive artist, he is also an intelligent, intensely literate, articulate, and confident thinker whose knowledge, derived from multi-faceted experiences outside of the art world, is actual rather than theoretical. Considered together, Tomaselli’s work can be understood as an extended meditation on artificial or hyper-mediated realities including, but by no means limited to, conditions associated with drug culture. Seemingly designed for the saturated, jaded spectator in all of us, his Op-inspired, potently visceral works respond to and satisfy a gluttonous, over-stimulated visual appetite.

It has been a rare circumstance for me to feel so overcome by a piece of artwork, but I admit my eyes glazed over as a result of this unexpected encounter. When Rondeau describes this work as "potently visceral", it is no exaggeration. It's refreshing to feel a strong spiritual connection with a piece of artwork.

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