Fred Tomaselli

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Fred Tomaselli
Fred Tomaselli (Brooklyn 2006).jpg
Fred Tomaselli in his Brooklyn studio, 2006, photo by Sally Larsen
Born 1956 (1956)
Santa Monica, California
Nationality American
Education California State University, Fullerton
Known for Painting

Fred Tomaselli (born in Santa Monica, California, in 1956) is an American artist. He is best known for his highly detailed paintings on wood panels, combining an array of unorthodox materials suspended in a thick layer of clear, epoxy resin. Tomaselli is represented by James Cohan Gallery in the United States and by White Cube gallery in the United Kingdom.

Early life & art[edit]

Early life[edit]

Tomaselli grew up in Orange, California. He attended and graduated from Orange High School where what he has described as “artificial, immersive, theme park reality” was a normal part of everyday life. The idea of a “contaminated” image – one that is Post-modern in its borrowing from both high and low culture – permeates his work. In 1982, he graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a B.A. in Painting and Drawing.

Life in 1980s Arts District, Los Angeles, California[edit]

After graduating from Cal State Fullerton, Tomaselli moved to a second story flat on Julian St. in the Arts District, Los Angeles, California. He became one of the first artists in the 1980s "Downtown L.A." art scene. He had ties to the growing punk and new wave music community and his drawings were published in Slash, an L.A. punk rock magazine. To partially support himself, he worked as a manager at Gorky's Cafe, a restaurant and local artist hangout founded by Judith Markoff (a retired schoolteacher). In the morning, he could usually be seen smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee reading the L.A. Times with his elbows on the table and his hands covering his ears to block out the ambient noise. Tomaselli often dressed in a punk geek-chic style, sporting red-rimmed plastic glasses, a button-down shirt, cardigan sweater and jeans.

The Art of Tomaselli[edit]

Tomaselli's paintings include medicinal herbs, prescription pills and hallucinogenic plants alongside images cut from books and magazines: flowers, birds, butterflies, arms, legs and noses, which are combined into dazzling patterns that spread over the surface of the painting like a beautiful virus or growth. He uses an explosion of color and combines it with a basis in art history. His style usually involves collage, painting, and/or glazing. He seals the collages in resin after gluing them down and going over them with different varnishes.[1]

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”.[2]

Album covers[edit]

Tomaselli's artwork has been on the front cover of several albums. He designed the front cover artwork for Laura Cantrell's third album 'Humming by the Flowered Vine' on Matador Records. His painting, 'Gravity In Four Directions', was also used as partial cover artwork for The Magnetic Fields' album "i". He also has artwork featured in The Wilco Book, a book made by Wilco, the band. His artwork is portrayed on Phish's eleventh studio album, "Joy", which was released September 8, 2009. His art also appears on the cd by Elysian Fields "Dreams That Breathe Your Name" released in July 2004.

Selected solo exhibitions[edit]

  • Brooklyn Museum (2010)
  • White Cube, London (2009)
  • The Rose Art Museum, Massachusetts (2005)
  • IMMA, Dublin (2005)
  • Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (2004)
  • Albright-Knox Gallery of Art, Buffalo, New York (2003)
  • White Cube, London (2001)
  • Site Santa Fe, New Mexico (2001)
  • Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, Florida (2001)
  • Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, (1999)

Selected group exhibitions[edit]

  • Aspen Art Museum (2009)
  • ‘Ecstasy’, LA MoCA (2006)
  • Whitney Biennial (2004)
  • 5th Site Santa Fe Biennial (2004)
  • Liverpool Biennial (2002)
  • Berlin Biennale (2001)
  • ‘Open Ends’, MoMA, New York (2000)

Prospect 1, CAC New Orleans, 2008


  • "Fred Tomaselli" by Ian Berry & Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, 2009, Aspen Art Museum · DelMonico Books · Prestel, New York; ISBN 978-3-7913-4392-1
  1. ^ a b Robert Ayers (October 20, 2006), Fred Tomaselli, ARTINFO, retrieved 2008-04-21 
  2. ^ Fred Tomaselli at White Cube gallery, London

External links[edit]