Fred Tomaselli at Orange County Museum of Art

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Fred Tomaselli has become a great success since moving from downtown L.A. to downtown New York in 1985. A native of Santa Monica, who got his art degree from Cal State Fullerton, he merged the So Cal influences of rock music, psychedelia, and drug use in obsessively detailed collaged paintings. He actually embedded pills and marijuana leaves into the transparent resin surface coatings of the paintings as kaleidoscopic patterns. These were the subject of a large retrospective in 2010.

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Fred Tomaselli, "After Nov. 11, 2010," 2014
Leaves, acrylic and resin on wood panel, 48 x 48 in.
Private collection

Fred Tomaselli: The Times, at the Orange County Museum of Art, was organized by Dan Cameron, an adventurous and insightful curator who has done a number of successful exhibitions in his brief tenure at the well-regarded museum. Now comes the shocking news that he is being let go along with other staff members. This is the work of new CEO and director Todd DeShields Smith who will take on the additional role of being chief curator. (We know how well that worked out at MOCA under Jeffrey Deitch.)

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Fred Tomaselli, "Head with Flowers," 1996
Paper collage, datura, ephedra, hemp, and resin on wood, 60 x 60 in.
Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Looking away from this depressing, late-breaking news, the present exhibitions are ample evidence of Cameron's talent as curator. Instead of another retrospective, Cameron took a more intimate approach, exhibiting the artist's intervention in the daily news as presented by the New York Times. Since 2005, Tomaselli has used gouache and collage to transform the large photograph featured above the fold in the daily paper. Looking at dozens of these pieces completed over the course of many years is to revisit the actual news of corrupt politicians, greedy hedge funders and murderous Middle-Eastern fundamentalists yet the experience of looking at Tomaselli's work has the opposite effect of depression and dismay. Instead, his work is so fantastic, in the literal sense, that it transforms the negative into the positive.

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Fred Tomaselli, "Aug. 7, 2011," 2011
Gouache and archival inkjet print on watercolor paper, 8 1/4 x 10 1/2 in.
Private collection, Marblehead, Massachusetts

Relatively few are literal or cartoonish responses to the content of the photographs. Most involve mazes, mosaics, starbursts and spirals of color as though an entire dimension of alternate reality was vibrating in the aether around the dour circumstances of daily living. Most are identified only by the date of the newspaper such as August 7, 2011: people praying in a Houston stadium at an event sponsored by Gov. Rick Perry are showered by Tomaselli's liquid rays of red and gold, a bloody and glowing radiance.

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Fred Tomaselli, "Apr. 28, 2010," 2010
Gouache and archival inkjet print on watercolor paper, 8 1/4 x 10 1/2 in.
Private Collection, New York

Or April 28, 2010 with Lloyd C. Blankfein defending Goldman Sachs' investments, the shape of his open mouth reverberating as concentric circles of unmodulated colors that surround and enclose him. The exhibition also features a selection of paintings and drawings from other points in Tomaselli's career to demonstrate the connections and differences in these two bodies of work but both are infused with his obsessive and infectious zeal. And additional boost comes at the hands of Lawrence Weschler who contributed the lively essay cum interview to the Tomaselli catalogue.

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Dieter Roth, "Oh! Look! Almost Everybody Is There!" 1976
Ink, crayon and acrylic paint on offsetprinting on card on board on hardboard, 15 1/2 x 21 1/4 in.
Gift of William B. Snyder
©Dieter Roth Estate, Courtesy Hauser & Wirth
Photo by Chris Bliss Photography

Also on view at the museum are Piccadillies by the late Dieter Roth (1930-1998), a series of paintings and prints all based on a single postcard of Piccadilly Circus in London, which serve as a nice counterpoint to the enterprise by Tomaselli.

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Photo documentation of "The Swan Tool," performance by Miranda July, 2001
Photo by David Nakamoto

In addition, the ideals of ‘90s Punk feminists Riot Grrrl are chronicled and celebrated in Alien She (title of a song by Bikini Kill), a show of work by a number of women including the now well-known author Miranda July. Heavy on ‘zines, posters, videos and xeroxes, the curators Astria Suparak and Ceci Moss stress the importance of these influences past and present. The shows are on view to May 24.