Skip to main content

Fred Tomaselli

Gravity's Rainbow (Large)
1999

Not on view

Date
1999

Classification
Paintings

Medium
Polished resin, acrylic, leaves, pills, and cut paper on wood, five parts

Dimensions
Overall: 95 7/8 × 240in. (243.5 × 609.6 cm)

Accession number
2000.9a-e

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Jack E. Chachkes Endowed Purchase Fund, Saul Rosen Fund on behalf of Arthur G. Rosen, James Cohan and Anthony d'Offay

Rights and reproductions
© artist or artist’s estate

At a glance, Gravity’s Rainbow (Large) appears to be composed of looping jewel-like strands of colors, elegantly layered against a black background. Close inspection, however, reveals that to make this monumental work, Fred Tomaselli embedded thousands of pills—ranging from prescription pharmaceuticals to street drugs to colorfully painted placebos—along with magazine cutouts and hemp leaves, in layers of transparent resin. This dazzling pharmaceutical array alludes to the power of art, like that of recreational drugs, to alter our perceptions and transport us to other worlds. The title originates with Thomas Pynchon’s 1973 cult novel Gravity’s Rainbow, in which the phrase “gravity’s rainbow” refers to the arced trajectory of a V-2 rocket falling on war-torn London during World War II—a shape echoed in the graceful arcs spanning the work. This allusion to impending destruction parallels the metaphorical implications of Tomaselli’s pharmaceutical chains: the beauty that transports us in his image has a dark, toxic underside.




Sunrise

Sunset

A 30-second online art project:
LaTurbo Avedon, Morning Mirror / Evening Mirror

Learn more

All visitors aged 12 and older must show proof they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for admission to the Whitney, in accordance with NYC requirements. Visitors aged 18 and older will also be asked to show photo ID. Face coverings are required for all visitors. Learn more about the Whitney’s safety guidelines.