Critics’ Picks

Migrant Fruit Thugs, 2006.

Migrant Fruit Thugs, 2006.

New York

Fred Tomaselli

James Cohan | 48 Walker St
48 Walker Street
October 6–November 11, 2006

Fred Tomaselli’s recent work engages experience through memory, perception, and imagination while exploring new terrain, including wildlife studies and grotesque portraiture, to positive effect. Employing a barrage of repetitive, exacting patterns—fingernail-size cutouts from magazines and books, candy-colored pills, and foliage—the artist creates an ultrasensorial atmosphere, one that generates the kind of “aha” moments typically inspired by meticulously layered aural harmonies. Migrant Fruit Thugs, 2006, one of several large works invoking John James Audubon, depicts two birds, composed of manifold beaks, eyes, and flowers, that possess impossibly long tails and preen against fig leaves and tiny star-shaped fireworks glittering in a night sky. Hang Over, 2005, recently featured in Paul Schimmel’s “Ecstasy” show at MoCA Los Angeles, is a two-panel work in which photo-collage garlands laced with acrylic pills droop gracefully from a leafless tree. Though this might seem to be a purely Dionysian romp, it is worth noting Tomaselli’s finely tuned Apollonian sense. By thickly coating his intricate arrangements with high-gloss resin as if to offset their precious ephemerality, the technical virtuosity of these works counterbalances their sense of weightless enthusiasm. This is most evident in the smaller, grotesque portraits, including Glassy, 2006, wherein a monstrous figure of collaged eyes, muscles, ears, and skin grafts receives divine inspiration from descending ornamental lines, like a psychedelic-Gothic saint. This exhibition offers a blitz of transcendental experiences, and if you hear snippets of Pet Sounds while looking, you'll leave this show slanted and enchanted, wondering whether it's all in your head.