Fred Tomaselli
2/2/2019 - 5/5/2019

Riley CAP Gallery exhibitions are supported by Douglas County, Catherine & Terry Ferguson, Sara Foxley, and Polina & Bob Schlott.

On March 16, 2005, The New York Times ran the following headline on its front page:

“Ex-Chief of WorldCom Is Found Guilty in $11 Billion Fraud.” Accompanying the headline was a picture of the former executive, Bernard “Bernie” Ebbers, and his wife, Kristie, captured while the couple was leaving the courthouse in New York where Ebbers' fate had just been sealed. Kristie avoids the cameras, instead directing her gaze to some point beyond the mob of photographers. Bernie, however, looks straight into the lens, his face betraying his distress and disbelief that the world had finally caught up with his misdeeds. Artist Fred Tomaselli (American, b. 1956) became consumed with this photograph, thrilled by the notion that Ebbers was “being expelled from the ‘Eden of Finance’ by the camera-wielding angels of the paparazzi.”1 Working directly on the image, Tomaselli made what would be the first of many “collaborations” with the front page of The New York Times.

Drawing upon art history, as well as Eastern and Western decorative traditions, Tomaselli is known for his lively, kaleidoscopic abstractions. Using found and discarded materials, including leaves and pills, has been integral to his practice since the 1980s. Newspaper has provided a new challenge, requiring Tomaselli to engage with fully-realized images and build on existing narratives. Yet, this new approach also comes with a sense of urgency for the artist. Not only are the topics covered in the Times pressing, but the medium itself—newspaper—is on the brink of obsolescence. Tomaselli is coming to terms with that reality, saying, “We’re at the sunset of print media. These materials will soon be artifacts.”2

Rich with the complex patterns for which Tomaselli became known early in his career, the compositions from the ongoing newspaper series ponder the absurdity of news cycles and provide the artist an opportunity to respond to a variety of issues, from regional anecdotes to global crises. Tomaselli has explained, “I think that maybe 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. Maybe I’m saying that the world may be going to hell, but I still keep painting.”3

What's pictured: Fred Tomaselli (American, b. 1956), Guilty, 2005, perforated archival inkjet print, 13 x 13 in., Edition of 100, © Fred Tomaselli. Image courtesy of James Cohan, New York

1“Fred Tomaselli: Current Events,” James Cohan Gallery, 2014,
2Fred Tomaselli in conversation with the author, November 9, 2018.
3“Fred Tomaselli,” James Cohan Gallery, n.d.,

Exhibition-Related Events & Programs

The Karen and Doug Riley Contemporary Artists Project Gallery

A 500-square-foot space in the Scott Pavilion suite of galleries, the Riley CAP Gallery showcases nationally- and internationally-recognized artists, as well as emerging talent, selected by Joslyn curators. A rotating schedule of intimate, carefully focused exhibitions will examine how artists engage with the world and respond to the issues that challenge them creatively, bringing new perspectives on contemporary art to Nebraska.

Riley CAP Gallery artists will be invited to Joslyn for lectures and other public programs, giving audiences the opportunity to gain insight into creative processes and contribute to an expanded dialogue about new art. The first Joslyn gallery dedicated exclusively to living artists, the Riley CAP Gallery represents an important step in making contemporary art an even more integral component of the Museum’s exhibition programming.