Paint groovy colors on the gray lady

Artist Fred Tomaselli turned off an NPR radio in his East Village studio the other day, settled into a squeaky swivel chair and described where he had his first pandemic, after his assistant studio “escaped to Vermont”. “My work is usually very heavy, I cannot lift it on my own,” he said. “So I was like, damn it, I’m going to take my studio and put it in my spare bedroom in Williamsburg and just do little drawings that are kind of a deep dive into the urgency of COVID, because every day was a headline. In March it was like Boom Boom Boom– every day was just an earthquake.

In this room, he scanned the first pages of the Time, printed them on watercolor paper, then painted and pasted on them, creating vividly colored patterns that are often reminiscent of groovy stained glass. Eventually, he started moving components around, making titles and photographs disappear. A number of these works are presented by London gallery White Cube, in a digital exhibition that runs until December 26.

Aug 17, 2021 (2021)Artwork by Fred Tomaselli / Courtesy James Cohan Gallery and White Cube

Locked in Williamsburg, Tomaselli, who is sixty-five, tinkered with, gardened, biked, bodyboarded, fly-fishing and birds. “It was like being back in high school,” he said. (He grew up in California, “in the shadow of Disneyland – I had Tinker Bell flying in the night sky in front of my house, amidst the fireworks.”) He continued, “I’m a great bird watcher. , and I never really had a chance to focus on my front yard. But I think I had seven new backyard birds during the pandemic. I had a Nashville’s Warbler and a Wilson’s Warbler in my plum tree – like, on the same tree, at the same time!

Newspaper prints hung behind Tomaselli, who wore checkered flannel over a gray T-shirt, black jeans and sneakers. One, from September 29, 2021, featured a photo of a yellow bird, on which he had affixed yellow flowers, and around which he had added a pattern of leaves, all under the title “COVID MALINFORMATION CREATES RUN ON ANIMAL MEDICINE. “

He asked his new assistant, Ryan, to dig up the real diary of that day: “He knows where the shit is.” The top title read “MILITARY ADVISED BIDEN TO EXTEND THE AFGHAN PRESENCE” and was associated with a photo of the scowling General Mark A. Milley. Beneath the fold was the bird, titled “The Maui nukupu’u, last seen in 1996, is one of 22 animals that join the list of lost species.” Page A17.

March 17, 2020 (2020)Artwork by Fred Tomaselli / Courtesy James Cohan Gallery and White Cube

Tomaselli’s list of bird life, which he has kept since the 1990s, numbers around four hundred species. He walked over to stacks of boxes and flat file drawers, and began pulling out other collections.

“I have all New York Time since 2005 ”, he declared. “This file is” collage material, humans, “so it’s like plastic trash and eyeballs and noses and lips and hands and feet and mouths.” All of these elements had been digitized, reprinted, cut out and sorted by color and size, to facilitate collage. Other drawers and boxes were labeled “Card Prints”, “Papers” and “”POT(As in the sheets, which he presses and uses in his work).

“Hey, Ryan,” he called out. “Do you know where my bugs are?” “

February 27, 2014 (2016)Artwork by Fred Tomaselli / Courtesy James Cohan Gallery and White Cube

“Like real insects?” Ryan asked, while continuing to excise scanned images of bird legs with an X-Acto knife.

“Wait, look, here are monarch butterfly wings,” Tomaselli said. “There was a large praying mantis in my butterfly bush, and it would kill the butterflies and you would find the wings.” And I thought: Well, the mantis is giving me a present. He stopped himself. “On the other hand, butterfly monarch populations are collapsing, which makes me feel depressed.”

Beside the flat files hung a centuries-old Tibetan thangka (representing, according to Tomaselli, “the union of compassion and wisdom on this sundial dancing on ignorance”), slightly damaged by oil smoke from yak. Allen Ginsberg, another thangka collector, died upstairs. “Two floors, but, like, directly“, noted Tomaselli.

He pointed to a foam board model of a building, the United States Embassy in Bangkok, for which he was designing an elliptical mosaic. Next to it was a sucker, with a mosaic owl. “I was going to do it, but I just found out that owls are considered bad luck out there,” he said.

He had made a Time– Manipulative work on the late Barry the Owl, famous for Central Park. In Tomaselli’s play, Barry is associated with the title “FACING AFGHAN CHAOS, BIDEN DEFENDS THE EXIT.“They don’t really make sense together, but it just felt right to me,” he said. “I saw Barry; I see all the famous birds. Mandarin duck? “I saw this duck before it was famous!” And I was, like, he’s an escaped pet, fucking big deal. And then the mandarin duck became a thing, in the news, and I was like, this duck is fake! You know you can buy them on the Internet for one hundred and fifty dollars. These are like ornamental ducks that you can have in your ornamental pond in your backyard in Connecticut. ??

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