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Rich Tomasello at 464 Gallery

One of Tomasello's emerging monsters, currently on exhibit at 464 Gallery.


Brightly lit emporium of limited edition artbooks, small useful items, and wearable art, 464 Gallery is a growing focal point of interest, now in its third year of exhibitions showing area artists pursuing strong personal narrative projects.

Currently on display is Rich Tomasello’s bold, ink and wash iconography of black and white orbs with menacing brow and rhino-like appendages, which runs the full range of paranoid presumptions. In his zig-zag configurations of conveyor belt drives and scaffolding, he presents viewers with all the fears that land on the loading dock in ovoid pods, simple egg-like repetitive undulations, each module sprouting a spike from the middle of what would be the forehead.

These drawings are projections seen as in a dream, in which endless rows of evil ovals in undifferentiated, precariously balanced, top-heavy legions move, seemingly inexorably, into view. There are variations in these actors: Some rhino orbs are missing their vaunted spikes and are boxed up under the label “defective,” (and appear decidedly crestfallen); some are bandaged in a manner to suggest a wound where the horn was broken off, or as if banded to prevent the horn from growing initially.

From the transformation of villagers in Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist play Rhinoceros to the war-like rhinos of Babar the Elephant’s kingdom, the armored beast gets plenty of face time as the symbolic spectre of Armageddon, a world of bullies. The exhibition is further weighted by a backstory of a real-time assault visited on the artist’s person during the spring of 2000, on a particular evening in which there was only derision from onlookers as at least a half a dozen individuals harassed him to the point where he crawled away, having suffering an incoherent hell of abuse.

In Breed, the primal penchant for bullying gets the full measure of human tribal cross-purpose; threat of gratuitous violence, passive witness, and willful ignorance. Listening to the Pogues as I write this and increasingly concerned about the epidemic of bullying abuse in the schools, in sports, and the workplace, and its often tragic aftermath, I shiver to realize what message the band is stomping into our beer-besotted senses loud and true—that we do not owe anyone anything on this earth, that we each arrive individually if only by seconds, and leave the same way out, but in between we ought to do whatever we can to help each other through the middle, and that includes, maybe most especially, middle school.

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