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Photo by Leisa Thompson

Fred Tomaselli: The Times

Artist: Fred Tomaselli
July 1, 2014 - June 30, 2015
A. Alfred Taubman Gallery I

Even in our digital age of constant information, the rhythmic cycle of the daily newspaper is still a central form of organizing the world around us. The paper’s front page records in the present tense what will eventually become history. It orients our attention to pressing actions, be they individual, political, or natural, that over time repeat and rearrange into patterns around common human motivations. Fred Tomaselli‘s The Times traffics in these patterns, reflecting and reinventing them through complexly layered collages superimposed on recent cover stories in The New York Times. The collages surface unseen connections, rearrange realities, and reveal relationships of images and ideas across time and space.

Tomaselli uses images within the familiar grid of the front page as portals, overwriting and manipulating the supposed objective reality of the newspaper with his completely subjective surreality. His interventions play against the detachment of journalistic forms, inserting emotion, fantasy, and absurdity to counterpoint or underscore the original narrative. Tomaselli says these works “freeze time,” trapping inherently ephemeral events and images like flies in amber. But in aggregate this act also reimagines time, linking images and actions of a chosen day to their counterparts in the past and in some projected future.

The Times grew from Tomaselli’s own doodlings of personal commentary while reading, eventually spurring him to marry his “news junkie” habit with his studio practice. The series runs the gamut from hard-edged abstraction to hallucinatory pattern play, and engages in a dialogue with art historical imagery and themes, refracted through present-day news images.


Lead support for the exhibition Fred Tomaselli: The Times is provided by the Herbert W. and Susan L. Johe Endowment. Additional generous support is provided by the University of Michigan Department of the History of Art, Institute for the Humanities, and Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.