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. He has been included in numerous group exhibitions including ‘Open Ends’, MoMA, New York (2000); Berlin Biennale (2001); Liverpool Biennial (2002); Whitney Biennial, New York (2004); 5th Site Santa Fe Biennial (2004); ‘Ecstasy’, LA MoCA, Los Angeles (2006); ‘Prospect 1’, New Orleans Biennale (2008); ‘Universal Code’ Powerplant, Toronto and ‘The World in The Body’, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2009); ‘Between Two Worlds’, Kunstmuseum Thun and ‘The Beauty of Distance’, 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010); CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (2011) and 1st Kiev Biennale Arsenale (2014). Solo exhibitions include Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1999); Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, Florida (2001); Site Santa Fe, New Mexico (2001); Albright-Knox Gallery of Art, Buffalo, New York (2003); Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (2004); Irish Museum Modern Aart, Dublin (2005); The Rose Art Museum, Massachusetts (2005); Aspen Art Museum, Aspen Colorado (2009); Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York and Frances Tang Teaching Museum, New York (2010) and Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas (2014).