The Dreamweaver

Tomaselli’s 2007 “Summer Swell”The Dreamweaver
Fred Tomaselli
Aspen Art Museum
Saturday, August 1, 2009

Fred Tomaselli earned street cred early on from his involvement in the underground punk and new wave music scene in 70s LA when his drawings were published in Slash (fanzine), an LA punk rock magazine. He emerged as an installation and performance artist with Paul McCarthy and other California artists in the 1980s. Living along the Pacific, surfboards were his vehicles for escape and the use of resin became a familiar medium in his artwork. His interests in drug culture made its way into the work as he yearned to create “sublime experiences” in reaction to the “theme parks and dislocated realities” he experienced growing up in Southern California. He moved east in 1986, settling into a studio in the then dodgy Williamburg neighborhood and turned to painting as a window to another reality. Over the years Tomaselli has carefully assembled an archive, an herbarium of sorts, containing weed, plants, pills, speed, insects, flowers, birds, and anatomical illustrations carefully cut from books and digital scans that he pulls from to create baroque paintings that draw upon a range of art historical sources and decorative traditions—like quilts and mosaics. Combining these unusual materials and paint under layers of clear epoxy resin, his paintings explode in mesmerizing patterns that appear to grow organically across his compositions in a multilayered coexistence of the real, the photographic, and the painterly. It would be perfectly fitting that his largest museum survey exhibition to date--featuring a curated selection of his two-dimensional works from the late 1980s to present would be held in Aspen where the drug culture burgeoned in the late 50s ushering in the hippie culture of the 60s when tripped out kids in Aspen celebrated the 1967 Summer of Love experience that Hunter S. Thompson dubbed “wild and incredible dopey.” It was doubly-fitting that the after party for his opening was held at the Aspen home of Lucy Sharp Dikeou whose monogram LSD was ticked along the cocktail napkins.

Fred Tomaselli was organized by the Aspen Art Museum, the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, and co-curated by AAM Director and Chief Curator Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson and Ian Berry, Associate Director and Malloy Curator at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College. Tomaselli is also the first artist to be simultaneously represented in a solo exhibition at the AAM and celebrated as an Aspen Award for Art honoree. He will be the subject of a new monograph by Prestel Publishing to be released on September 1, 2009. Edited by Ian Barry, the book will feature an extended conversation between the artist and Barry, and scholarly essays by Zuckerman Jacobson and others. It will also include an excerpt from an unpublished work by David Shields, best-selling author of The Thing About Life is that One Day You’ll Be Dead.


A Lip Smacking Night

Artist, Poet, Musician Genesis P-Orridge

The motto of cosmetic giant M.A.C is "Art is M.A.C's DNA"—although of course it's designed to cover up imperfections in your own genetics. Last week, M.A.C outdid itself, launching three collaborations for their Fall 2009 pallette, featuring painter of many things glossy Marilyn Minter, illustrator Maira Kalman, and Richard Phillips. The latter is a particularly bold choice: not that Phillips couldn't be accused of touching up his hyper-real portraits of young women—far from it, he likes his subjects to look perfect. But for a multi-national corporation, M.A.C has given unprecedented creative freedom to an artist who sources his subjects from pornography, and incorporates into them images of the government and the business world as symbols of power and control. Says M.A.C. creative director James Gager, "We thought it'd be interesting to see what three artists in their own field would do if we gave them our Fall color collection... I didn't get involved in art directing; I wanted the project to be pure. At M.A.C, we do a lot of things that no other company would dare."

Last week M.A.C hosted three separate parties for the artists, in one night. The last, "Make-Up Art Cosmetics Fall '09 As Seen By Richard Phillips" entailed a cocktail party held at the artist's Chelsea studio. Phillips gave some of his paintings a M*A*C make-over, some photo-retouched with dirty pale pink matte cheek blush and Young Thing lipglass. Xeno and Oaklander, the minimal wave/synth duo of artist Liz Wendelbo and Sean McBride flipped on a (poor clarifying) smoke-machine and played analog synthesizers and percussion instruments. When I stepped out for air the paparazzi were snapping feverishly at nightclub owner Amy Sacco and Phillips' Yale alum the painter John Currin with his wife the artist and sometime fashion model Rachel Feinstein. Art, buisiness, celebrity, and fashion, at it again.


A Day Late and a Euro Short...

Vivid Gallery, Rotterdam Founder, Aad Krol on the Fossil Chaise Longue, 2009 by Atelier van Lieshout at Design Miami Basel

Sometimes nothing sums it up better than a good old-fashioned idiom. In mid-June, on my way back to New York from Basel via London, I managed to leave my laptop in the xray machine at the airport. Luck had that an honest security guard turned it in and alas it was delivered recently to my doorstep with a cache of photos that are now memories of the multi art fairs in Basel, Switzerland: Liste; Volta; Art Design Miami; and the centerpiece, Art 40 Basel...and on the way home a pitstop at the annual Vauxhall Art Car Boot Fair in London’s Eastend where Gavin Turk, Peter Blake and a cavalcade of British artists and designers got all fancied up and sold their wares at an outdoor flea market-style sale sponsored by Vauxhall.


I SEE YOU, YOu, You, you...

Dan Graham inside Girl’s Make-up Room

Can you beleieve that Dan Graham, one of contemporary arts most innovative and influential figures, is in no American museum collections? Graham got some much-deserved recognition last night at The Whitney when they unveiled Dan Graham: BEYOND, curated by Chrissie Isles and Bennett Simpson. A retrospective of Graham's groundbreaking work in film, video, photography, installation, performance, sculpture and musical collaborations dating from the mid–60's to present fills the entire fourth floor. Guests weaved in and out of architectural-scale glass pavilions that filled the main gallery, turning it into a playground for paranoid adults. Quite a few of the ladies were in and out of Girl's Make-up Room, 1998-2000, a curved, semi-circular stainless steel mesh and two-way mirror glass pavilion complete with a mirror wand and a vanity table with a selection of red lipsticks to try on. On the flipside of the space, people crammed in to view Graham's seminal Body Press, 1970–1972, a dizzying 16mm film in which Graham obliterates the idea of the supposed objectivity of the camera by handing the device to actors, who performed simple movements like circling one another. By closing time no one knew if they were coming or going.

by Mary Barone



Art Patron, Maja Hoffmann with Kunsthalle Zurich Director, Beatrix RufOn Saturday, the train station in Zurich was heaving with art addicts en route from Venice for Contemporary Art Weekend, Zurich. The weekend kicked off with a major bang. In the Lowenbrau, an exhibition of more than a dozen new works by Paul McCarthy unveiled at Galerie Hauser & Wirth; Rita Ackermann showed works she made during her recent Chinati Foundation residency titled Marfa/Crash at Galerie Peter Kilchmann; Haunch of Venison celebrated an exhibition of new paintings by British artist Rachel Howard titled Der Wald at their Lessingstrasse post; and Galerie Mai 36 opened at stunning show of new work by John Baldessari. Other highlights included an amazing retrospective of work by German artist, Katarina Fritsch at Kunsthaus; The Absence of Mark Manders also at Kunsthaus; Tris vonna Michell’s Auto-tracking, Auto-tracking in the project room at the Kunsthalle; and in the main space new work by Philippe Parreno. The weekend concluded on a high note, with cocktails and dinner hosted by the Kunsthalle Zurich at the Breuerlakehouse overlooking Lake Geneve.

Mary Barone
June, 2009

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