For this week’s interview, Katie Bell traveled to New York City again where she met with Fred Tomaselli at the James Cohan gallery and virtually streamed class. Tomaselli is an American artist known for his highly detailed works that seamlessly weave reality and the cosmic sublime. 

At the gallery, Tomaselli first walked us through his current exhibition Fred Tomaselli where contextualized his works and described the process in which they were made. I was particularly drawn to Tomaselli’s New York Times series where he alters the front page of the New York Times using mesmerizing and elaborate designs. With these works, Tomaselli is transforming the foundations of the photograph and surrounding context of information into abstract collages. Every photograph is original in size and the New York Times article is printed on a sheet of watercolor paper. Although his materials are simple, as he often uses a traditional exacto knife, wash and acrylic paint, Tomaselli transforms mundane photographs into supercharged objects.   

Jul. 17, 2018
Gouache, collage, and archival inkjet print on watercolor paper
Image size: 10 5/8 x 11 3/4 in
Framed: 16 3/8 x 17 1/2 in.

A common theme across Tomaselli’s works is “trickery” and keeping the viewer off-balance as to what they are seeing. Whether it is an image of a real object or paint, you have to get up close and engage with the work to unlock these things. There is something optically interested happening in his work where the lines between collage and paint start to blur.  

For me, seeing Tomselli’s exhibit “in-person” added another dimension to his work, literally. When looking at images of his works online, they are flattened out and can appear as paintings at first glance. However, through Katie’s video, we were able to see the different layers of paper in the resin. There was quite a bit of depth in terms of how things are stacked up within the resin and the different focal points between the layers of paper are clearly defined. Additionally, we were able to see how the layers cast a certain shadow upon the work depending on how the paper sits on top of one another. As such, it is easy to understand why his works were well-received due to the meticulous nature of the layers in which they are applied.