Review: Fred Tomaselli at The Modern in Fort Worth

[Originally published in a different format in Visual Art Source, Los Angeles]


Fred Tomaselli’s art is currently featured in the Focus exhibition at The Modern Museum in Fort Worth. Among many other venues, his work has been shown at the White Cube gallery in London and, for some, that will vet him as a viable force capable of holding court with the mightiest of contemporary artists. However, there’s a shortcut to seeing how he measures up. Simply check out his exhibition now on display at The Modern. It’s a smallish show; however, it is about as large in visual richness as one can find.

One work, “Flipper,” is a massive piece measuring 15 feet across that operates nicely as an abstract and colorful confection on a dark background. Tomaselli’s trademark composition of collaged elements is evident — the piece is composed of brightly colored layered loops that are coated in thick epoxy resin. His work traps lyrical and profane objects in equal measure. Thus, everything — including:  aspirin, magazine and field guide images, ecstasy tablets, marijuana leaves and, of course, paint — is enlisted to create a visual thrill.

“Flipper” is deemed by Tomaselli to be a hopeful nod to New Orleans in the aftermath of the Katrina disaster. Says he: “I wanted to… (celebrate) the rich musical heritage of New Orleans (and) you can read the small ovals arranged along the central horizontal line as the mouths of a gospel choir singing in the night….” It also feels, at least for this viewer, positively Vedic with serious cosmic implications. It looks like a Carl Sagan-style “test pattern” that is thoroughly sentient yet basking in an intellectual neatness. It’s dense; it’s honed; and it’s exuberantly ambitious in import.

Meanwhile, a host of works — dubbed “New York Times” — occupy a separate space in the show. They’re composed of scanned images of front-page NYT newspapers that were altered and subsequently printed on watercolor paper. They contort contexts and content; for instance, one work shows former presidential candidate Mitt Romney striding toward KKK clansmen. (An image of Rick Perry is also used to interesting effect.)  In fact, the entire exhibition offers a vector into the crazy mélange of our culture — sometimes morphing vacuous facets into images that are either explosive or rapturous. Thus, Tomaselli has delivered a fine show; one could even find it transformative.

— Recommended by Patricia Mora


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