I’ve always been a big fan of artist Rich Tomasello’s work. I’m also a big fan of Buffalo Art Movement (BAM!) that is being run by Francisco “Paco” J Hernandez-Illizaliturri. Paco’s day job is quite different than his passion project – when he’s not wearing his art superhero cape, he’s works at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center as the Chief of the Lymphoma Section and is a Professor of Oncology.
It was back in May that I first attended a BAM! opening in the gallery’s 4000 square foot space at 255 Great Arrow Avenue. I was really impressed with the scene, the show’s attendance, and the artists’ works, which were given plenty of space to show. So when I heard that the upcoming BAM! exhibition was dedicated to the works of Rich Tomasello, I knew that we were in for something impressive.
Tomasello’s latest works are inspired by the unabashed rawness of gun culture in America, which seems to be a popular theme with artists these days (understandably so).
Gun violence, mass shootings and lockdown drills have become part of the fabric of modern American culture.
The upcoming show, titled “RUN. HIDE. FIGHT.,” encourages the viewer to step back and think about how we have become desensitized to the violence… and the resulting voyeurism that we see daily. He is doing this by “manipulating plaster and scale” in ways that speak of lost innocence – a country that has lost its way when it comes to gun control, with no real light at the end of the tunnel.
“The scale of my sculptures increase in size to mimic the emotional burden felt by our society,” says Tomasello. “My works are overpowering and oppressive symbols of our time. They yearn for a more innocent past, acknowledge the present and see a chaotic future.
“Run, Hide, or Fight is the actual training presented currently to educators working across the country in response to increased gun violence and mass shootings. I’ve been an art educator in WNY for almost 20 years and am a father of two, learning how to apply a tourniquet or plug a gunshot wound is not something I ever expected to be a part of my job description. All students in the US from kindergarten to 12th grade need to practice a certain amount of active shooter/lockdown drills each school year. These events are what fuel my work as an artist. This is my first solo in Buffalo in six years and I could not be more excited.”
Tomasello’s work consists of large scale cardboard, foam, and plaster sculptures including a 6 foot tall book bag, 8 foot tall gas mask, and a hugely oversized Big Wheel bike.
As for the venue, Tomasello says, “BAM! is a beautiful new gallery space run by Francisco ‘Paco’ J Hernandez-Illizaliturri. Paco is a long-time art collector in Buffalo and has the passion to exhibit artists whose work he believes in. BAM!’s team also consists of Jeffrey Heras and Joe Babcock. Jeffrey is a SUNY Buffalo State graduate with a degree in journalism while Joe is also a Buffalo State alumnus with a BFA in Communication Design. Jeffrey and Joe have worked tirelessly to bring my exhibition to life. They created an amazing video chronicling my work and its meaning.”
RUN. HIDE. FIGHT.
WHEN: Friday, July 16th from 5-10PM
WHERE: BAM! Buffalo Art Movement, 255 Great Arrow Avenue Suite 200 Buffalo, NY 14207
Located in the historic Pierce Arrow Commerce Park
WHY: Major solo exhibition of the artist’s work addressing contemporary issues of gun violence, digital media and the loss of innocence for children today.