According to artist Andrew Tosiello, to understand the art world is to understand gambling. The many facets of an artist’s career (producing, exhibiting, representation, selling, etc.) often fall like six-sided dice onto the Craps table of life and indicate the direction of one’s successes from then on–until the next roll at least.
The San Francisco artist’s new body of work, which deals with the theme of gambling, was recently exhibited in DON’T PASS/DON’T COME: NEW WORK BY ANDREW TOSIELLO at Maniac Gallery in Chinatown, marking his first solo show in Los Angeles. DON’T PASS/DON’T COME was also the inaugural show at Maniac’s new space in LA, since director Petra Royale Bibeau relocated the program late this summer from Downtown Oakland.
The small storefront on New High Street (steps from Chung King Road, the epicenter of Chinatown galleries) houses a cohesive presentation of Tosiello’s paintings and ink on paper pieces, which explore and even explicitly explain the game of Casino Craps. As the artist explained to me, “My interest in Craps developed as part of my other work which focuses on the Mafia. Gambling is one of the ‘engines’ of money production in organized crime, so I began researching the various games.” He went on to explain that with Craps in particular, “a player can bet with or against the dice–that is, can win on a winning or losing role. This suggested to me that in Craps, as in my work, the outcome (meaning) is developed extrinsically–that is, determined by the outside.”
The work on view plays with the idea of this seemingly straightforward game–essentially a random roll of the dice–and the many clandestine codes that encompass its culture. “Laying Odds” is a minimalist painting depicting chips tipped to indicate “A Laying Odds Bet on the Don’t Pass,” according to Tosiello’s “A Guide to Playing Craps” booklet, yet it also somehow seems to aesthetically recall Theo Van Doesburg’s 1930 painting, “Arithmetic Composition,” which similarly depicts stacked, diagonal black shapes, but which was intentionally free of any representation of reality. The ink on paper piece, “Horn,” is made up of impressions left by ink-covered dice, creating a pattern of the numbers in, and spelling out, the bet of the eponymous name–2, 3, 11 and 12.
Andrew Tosiello lives and works in San Francisco. He earned his MFA at California College of the Arts in San Francisco and his BFA at the Boston University School of Fine Arts. Recent exhibitions include: Little Tree Gallery Social Club, little tree gallery, San Francisco, CA; The Dollar Project curated by Liz Walsh, Eleanor Harwood Gallery, San Francisco, CA; and What We Do is Secret HUAM Employee Exhibition, Harvard University’s Fogg Museum, Cambridge, MA.