Fred Tomaselli Interview: Drawing on New York Times


“The world is going to hell, but art is still worth making.” Hear about American artist Fred Tomaselli’s fascinating project, in which he manipulates The New York Times front pages by adding paint and collage onto editorial photographs.

The series of works ‘The Times’ began in 2005 with a picture of Bernie Ebbers (the man behind WorldCom, one of the largest accounting scandals in American history) and his wife leaving Federal District Court in New York, just after he had been found guilty of fraud. Tomaselli couldn’t get the photo out of his head, feeling that it reminded him of Masaccio’s early 15th century fresco ‘Expulsion From the Garden of Eden’, where Adam and Eve are shown in the moment they are being shut out of paradise: “They’re being driven out of their financial Eden by the camera-wielding paparazzi of the media.” This biblical image of being separated from ‘the Garden’ seemed parallel to the story of the ousted WorldCom CEO, and Tomaselli proceeded to paint eyes and dots on top of Ebbers head as well as an aureole around the pair’s hands.

“They have made decisions on what to spotlight, and what to ignore… so I have this love-hate relationship with The (New York) Times – mostly they’re trying, but then they fuck up every now and again.” Doing the project enables Tomaselli to “talk back” to the newspaper, but at the same time he becomes a new subjective voice as well as a form of editor. The often surreal, abstracts compositions provide him with a space to respond to a variety of regional as well as global issues.

“I guess my political ideology informs my work from time to time.” Tomaselli, who describes himself as being “pretty left of the Democratic party”, doesn’t feel that what he’s doing can affect a meaningful political change. What it can do, however, is to support the belief that “there’s still something beautiful that is worth keeping… or worth keeping faith in.”

Fred Tomaselli (b. 1956) is an American artist. His paintings include medical herbs, prescription pills and hallucinogenic plants alongside clips from books and magazines, creating a collage suspended in gleaming layers of clear, polished, hard resin. Tomaselli has held solo exhibitions at venues such as James Cohan Gallery and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, White Cube in London, Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh, Site Santa Fee in New Mexico and Albright-Knox Gallery of Art in Buffalo, New York. His work can be found in the public collections of prominent venues such as the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art and the Brooklyn Museum in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

Fred Tomaselli was interviewed by Kasper Bech Dyg at his studio in New York City in November 2014. In the video Tomaselli discusses his series ‘The Times’, which features manipulated New York Times front pages.

Camera: Klaus Elmer
Produced and edited by: Kasper Bech Dyg
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2016

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