Reflecting the Unreal
“The hippie dream was coming to an end.” Watch American artist Fred Tomaselli – who adds elements such as pot and pills to his work – discuss the impact psychedelic drugs had on his art and how it reflects escapism while still commenting on reality.
“Every night at nine o’clock Tinker Bell would fly across the sky amidst the fireworks.” Tomaselli considers Southern California – in which he grew up close to Disney Land – to be “the vanguard of the culture of the unreal.” He started using elements from Disney Land and other theme parks in his art as a means to comment on escapism – something that was quite unpopular at the time, where art was about the opposite – truth: “When I was at school, the idea of making escapist art was the worst thing you could do.” To Tomaselli, however, the very concept of escapism was an important part of the culture he was a product of, and he wanted to look at that phenomenon as art.
Psychedelic drugs and the psychedelic experience played a large part in Tomaselli’s work. The sense of utopianism and altered perception, which the substances conjured up, were symptomatic of the postmodern time: “There was just a bunch of rubble of utopianism that I was waiting through as a young person, trying to figure out what was worth saving. How to perceive through this desolate landscape of dead ideology.” Too young to be a hippie himself, Tomaselli was faced with the sad aftermath: “Those substances recall those dead utopias. And that was the dead utopia that I had immediately inherited.”
“I like the window that becomes the mirror that becomes the window again.” Though Tomaselli acknowledges that his art does indeed contain escapist elements, he feels that it is not purely “escapist art,” as it always reflects the world back to the viewer.
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.
Camera: Klaus Elmer
Produced and edited by: Kasper Bech Dyg
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015
Supported by Nordea-fonden