Since the early 1990s, Fred Tomaselli has examined the sublime in suburban American culture. The artist arranges hemp leaves, jimson weed, and pills ranging from aspirin to Prozac in psychedelic patterns and covers them with layers of resin. Images from nature such as birds, flora, and fauna, are intertwined with the drugs. Tomaselli states, Â“All drugs manipulate reality on some level.Â” The artist manipulates reality by challenging the viewerÂ’s visual concepts of drugs and pills, turning them into patterns that please the eye. His use of substances possessing the power to both heal and destroy are part of a larger recurring theme in the artistÂ’s work, in which he explores the ways we seek to alter reality. In pieces such as Desert Bloom (2000), Tomaselli literally connects the homes of Utopian visionaries such as Henry David Thoreau, religious and hippie communes, and the homes of Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber) and Charles Manson. Examined together these images can be seen as, perhaps, a dysfunctional paradise.
There are over 30 works in the exhibition, including major paintings such as GravityÂ’s Rainbow (1999); New Jerusalem (1998); and All the Birds I Can Remember Seeing/All the Drugs I Can Remember Taking (1996). The works chosen for this show compose a fully comprehensive exhibition of 10 years of work by Tomaselli and illustrate how the artist has consistently commented on the escapist nature of American society and the need to both seek out and critique Utopian ways of life.
The exhibition was organized by The Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, Lake Worth, Florida, and Amy Cappellazzo, Visiting Curator, and made possible through the generous support of Robert and Mary Montgomery with additional support provided by Atelier 4 Shipping, Inc.Â The SITE Santa Fe presentation of the exhibition was made possible in part by Nancy and Dr. Robert C. Magoon.