Fred Tomaselli’s incorporation of printed news in his paintings long before the pandemic now seems downright prescient.
“There is an outer world of violent chaos, and an inside world that is the paradise of being an artist.”
There’s never a shortage of art books, but it is often hard to find the best in a field flooded with vanity projects, sales tools, and books that promise so much more than they deliver.
Pierogi is a Williamsburg, Brooklyn art gallery, and one of its longest-running traditions turns 20 this week: Brooklyn Gravity Racers.
In a 1483 German Bible, the Garden of Eden is depicted as a corralled green circle; Adam and Even are ejected from its manicured grass to a hilly wilderness, with a trail leading off into the unknown. This idealized interpretation of original sin sits alongside more modern takes on our relationship with our environment in the Museum of Biblical Art’s Back to Eden: Contemporary Artists Wander the Garden.
“Wasn’t pot your gateway drug to gardening?” Lawrence Weschler asked Fred Tomaselli teasingly during their recent conversation for the New York Public Library’s Art and Literature Series.
It’s not clear who scooped whom, but there are two gallery shows now on view in New York that examine the relationship between art and the newspaper.
After watching Bushwick’s visual arts scene grow and usurp the energy of Williamsburg’s two decades of dominance as the epicenter of the city’s artistic edge, curator Larry Walczak decided it was time to put together an exhibition that investigates the neighborhood’s recent art heritage. The show, Williamsburg2000, opened on March 12 and includes 68 artists. Taking place at the small artist-run indy space Art101 on Grand Street, the exhibition focuses mostly on Williamsburg’s “second wave” that began in 1998 and continued until 2002, coincidentally its the same time period that Walczak ran the Eyewash gallery space with the late Annie Herron.
The Art Show has been hosted by the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA) for the last 23 years, reigning supreme as the longest running national art fair. The ADAA consists of 175 galleries but only seventy exhibitors enrolled this year, excluding stunners like Andrea Rosen, Betty Cunningham, PPOW and Gavin Brown. A large majority of the participants are located uptown between 50th Street and 90th Street. The generalized content (“cutting-edge, 21st century works” and “museum quality pieces from the 19th and 20th centuries”) and my fears of dated academia prepped me for the deflated viewing that was The Art Show. The ADAA’s Executive Director spoke to the “calm and intimate atmosphere” of The Art Show. Although the Park Avenue Armory’s soaring “balloon shed” construction is partially responsible, the cavalcade of elderly patrons weren’t exactly rambunctious. The air-kisses exchanged between crotchety senior citizens summoned a swinger’s club way past its prime.
The Brooklyn Museum’s catalog for their Fred Tomaselli exhibition is pretty mammoth for a show that only takes up three galleries. Still, the tome serves well as a way to expand on ideas presented in the exhibition and give a greater view of the artist’s work than would otherwise be possible in the limited space. Just do yourself a favor and don’t stop at the book version.
The diversity of works included in the catalog, from early installations and sculptures to constellation drug charts and later lacquered collages, is fascinating to see, but the ability to see so much at once also comes at a cost.
One might be excused for mistaking Fred Tomaselli’s solo show at the Brooklyn Museum for a pharmacy. Upon closer look, the collaged paintings, baroquely-arranged magazine clippings coated in a thick layer of resin, are embedded with pills the way a microchip is implanted under the skin. Sometimes the names are visible, Vicodin, Oxycontin, even a few Viagras. More often than not, though, the pills only become pills upon closer inspection. From afar, they just look like another element of Tomaselli’s works. Drugs are synthesized into the artist’s paintings, and though the psychological shock of recognizing a pill name remains, the chemicals form just another ingredient.
Yeah, there are drugs in the paintings. Most of them are probably illegal in such vast quantities at Tomaselli uses them. But though that’s the form of the work, that’s not the content: in this case, the medium is not the message. Aren’t we all done with the drug hysteria and fetish, now that weed is basically legal in California and the cliches of the painkiller-addicted housewife and the coke-snorting, bowl smoking banker are just that, cliches? So let’s giggle and move on. What’s behind the drugs in Fred Tomaselli?
This fall is a great time to be in New York. The always interesting Teri Tynes over at Walking Off the Big Apple has compiled a select (but extensive) list of New York museum shows this fall. There’s a lot to see and do and here are some we’re really looking forward to …