Visiting China, Artist Fred Tomaselli Admits Admiration for Ai Weiwei

Fred Tomaselli, "Bloom #6," 2011, gouache and photo collage on photogram, 14 x 11 inches. (Photo: James Cohan Gallery)

With his work set to go on view in a group show, called “Alchemy & Inquiry,” at James Cohan Gallery’s Shanghai branch tomorrow, artist Fred Tomaselli gave a remarkably candid interview to The Wall Street Journal about his career and his views on China.

Explaining that he was making his first trip to China, Mr. Tomaselli shared:

“I was ready to see a tumultuous environment that was dynamic, and that’s certainly met all my expectations. It’s mind-blowing to see how China has this uber-capitalist spirit. They want money. They want to be so rich it’s just jaw-dropping.”

Asked about his knowledge of Chinese art, Mr. Tomaselli said that he’s a fan of Yun-Fei Ji, Hu Bing, Liu Xiaodong–whose work he compared to New York-based realist painter Eric Fischl–and Ai Weiwei, the dissident artist who was detained by Chinese authorities for 81 days earlier this year.

As Observer contributor Marion Maneker points out on his blog, Art Market Monitor, Mr. Tomaselli also rather openly admitted that het thinks his work may not appeal to Chinese buyers. Said the artist:

“There are aspects of Asian culture in my work, but it’s really rooted in an American experience — transcendentalism, ’60s counterculture, punk rock. These are specific cultural manifestations, so I’m not sure if my work translates to other cultures outside of that. I’d like to think that it does, but I can’t claim universality.”

“Alchemy & Inquiry” was first shown at the Bronx’s Wave Hill cultural center earlier this year. Visiting China, Artist Fred Tomaselli Admits Admiration for Ai Weiwei