Collage artist Fred Tomaselli is known for his self-described "psychotropic works," which are often made with anything but your typical artistic materials — including pharmaceuticals, meticulously cut papers, and leaves. He has worked this way for decades, using oversized painted wood panels as his canvas, which he then photo-collages, coats in resin, and often paints again.
Now the Brooklyn-based artist is using a more meta medium: The New York Times front page.
The ongoing series, which began in 2005, has been published in a book, Fred Tomaselli: The Times, and is on view at a corresponding show, "Current Events," at the James Cohan Gallery in New York City. Using the feature photo window of the Times' front page, Tomaselli's vivid collages give the day's headlines a colorful spin.
Tomaselli draws and collages on top of the news print directly. The result is personal, political, surreal, and yet indelibly connected with a specific time and place. "I think that many of the Times collages are quietly political, in that I can riff on anything I want, while the horrors of the world become the background buzz," Tomaselli said in the show's press release.
In June 29, 2012, the day of the Supreme Court's big decision upholding ObamaCare, Tomeselli renders the justices as a free-floating, interconnected mass of organ-like entities. In July 15, 2009, a Marine flees a bomb exploding confetti into the Afghan sky.
By layering his political and cultural agenda with that of the country's most prominent daily newspaper, Tomaselli creates alluring images that force the viewer to engage with current events while reflecting on their human impact — both big and small. In this way, Tomaselli said he sees a parallel between his work and Joan Miro's Constellation series, which the Spanish painter created during the Spanish Civil War and World War II as a form of escape.
"Constellations are resolutely political insofar as these works advocate for a certain kind of humanity at the very moment that that culture was being destroyed, those people were being destroyed," he said.