The Language That Connects Everything - Tom Criswell interviewed by Janet Mercel

 Legendary Artist Chuck Close & Tom Criswell at Criswell's Show

With this week being the celebratory week of the Fuchs & Mahtani Birthday / Anniversary , March 13th ,  Michou & Thomas have always dedicated their gift to one another a piece of art. This leant its way to the latest Artist Dinner Series featuring artist Tom Criswell. 

Abstract painter and sculptor Tom Criswell is used to creating impactful work under unusual circumstances, thanks to his sideline of production design and art direction for legendary image makers like Annie Leibowitz and David LaChapelle. When Michou Mahtani, the creative powerhouse behind luxury goods company Thomas Fuchs Creative, dropped off a roll of burlap at his studio for a large scale mural, he was prepared to improvise. “I actually work with a lot of burlap,” he explains.

Tom Criswell & Thomas Fuchs in Tom's Studio 

The burlap in question ended up being the focal point of Criswell’s installation for Fuchs and Mahtani’s most recent installment of their Miami-based Tavolo Artist Dinner Series. The premise is always to highlight a featured artist’s work in myriad applications around the couple’s Brickell high rise, be it paintings and sculpture traditionally hung on walls, or incorporated into an interactive tablescape featuring TFC’s hand-crafted glassware.

In this case, Mahtani had recently visited the Philippe Stark-designed Brach Hotel in Paris and was blown away by the Surrealist mural stretched down the lobby ceiling. To recreate the effect, Criswell hand painted two mirrored lengths for the ceiling and table in his signature tribal matrix.

 

The Venezuelan-born, L.A.-raised artist’s unrestrained works take their cue from primitive art, with a strong draw to the modern earth and humanity. The distinctive reds, whites, ochre and earth tones are pigments that have been around for tens of thousands of years. Criswell’s connection to the beaches of his native Venezuela and his work on sets brought his attention to a tremendous amount of waste and disposabilism. His mixed media paintings are often 3D works on alternative materials like wood paneling, incorporating found and upcycled objects.

 

“I’m influenced by Primitive and modern culture in all forms, and there’s links everywhere, from Incan to Mayan to Maasai to Mesopotamia. It’s the interconnectivity that intrigues me. To inspire a conversation with the viewer, that’s really what I’m after more than anything else.” The results are maximalist works full of color and texture, and exactly what attracted Fuchs and Mahtani.

 

TFC’s newest collection, the Black and White Cloud Glasses, are handblown in Murano using ancient techniques of color dipping, then rolling the broken shards into clear glass to create an organic, pressed result. “You can feel the bumps of each shape with your fingertips,” Fuchs says. The effect is usable objet d’art that mirrors the mood of Criswell’s paintings as though they were made for each other, making for one of the most beautiful installments yet of the Tavolo dinner series.

 

Guests such as renowned curators Claire Brucknel and Editor in Chief of European Art & Culture Magazine Eventail Gabrielle Abada, and architect Jonathon Hogg (Ferguson & Shamamian), were awestruck by the dinner scene as the sun set over the Brickell river and through Fuchs and Mahtani’s glass walled home. Fuchs prepared black and white Greek key pizza inspired by Criswell’s graphic patterns, while handcrafted cocktail company BTL SVC thrilled guests with fiery concoctions like The Scorpion and The Matador.

 Michou Mahtani & Curator Gabrielle HB Abada

It’s important to Criswell that his work is beautiful but has some social worth, with an awareness of materials and origin, something that is vital to Fuchs and Mahtani. Each event is thoughtful and specific; their last dinner, for the Frost Museum’s 50th Anniversary Stonewall exhibit, raised over $100K to aid the travel of the collection around the country.

 

“They’re my own personal Gertrude Stein,” Criswell says of the TFC founders, who fittingly, recently announced their curated collection is now sold at the Louvre, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Musee Picasso , Centre Pompidou, and Musee d’Orsay at de l’Orangerie. Criswell states “sometimes I feel like I’m working for the devil when I’m doing production, and there’s nothing I’d rather do than paint. I don’t want to be restrained in what I create or sell, and with the Tavolo series, it’s wonderful that someone has come in and created that platform for artists”.

2 comments

This is so inspiring. I love the colors, textures, and energy that spills from every corner of the space!

Elshane March 10, 2020

Beautiful

Alicia Kossick March 09, 2020

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