Oklahoma Contemporary
Josh Tonsfeldt Screengrab Portrait

New Light

April 21, 2020

#ArtistSpotlight: Josh Tonsfeldt

Get to know the emerging artist turning the every day upside down

Josh Tonsfeldt
b. Independence, Mo., 1979
Works on view: Untitled (Bright Golden Haze); Quentin (Shadow on the Glare)

Josh Tonsfeldt, Untitled, 2015
Untitled (2015) by Josh Tonsfeldt, on view in Bright Golden Haze.

Daily life looks a little different through the eyes of Josh Tonsfeldt. The boundary-pushing artist draws on the minutiae of everyday experience to create work that transcends the boundaries of classification. Tonsfeldt's videos, photographs, drawings and installations mix technology and tradition to comment on transformation, decay and his own family history.

"A lot of my work comes from domestic life and materials that we use every day," Tonsfeldt said. That's the case for both pieces on display in Oklahoma Contemporary's inaugural Bright Golden Haze and Shadow on the Glare exhibitions: a mixed-media sculpture featuring a deconstructed consumer television screen and a disarmingly surreal video built around fragments of a family reunion.

Tonsfeldt's untitled work in Bright Golden Haze scrambles these everyday elements into a 3-D piece that challenges our ideas of what sculpture can be. "It's a dissection of this screen, this device we spend a great deal of our lives in front of. It's also a montage, a kind of collage of video of fragments of video from my daily life and experiences," Tonsfeldt said. "But it's edited in a way that's fairly abstract. There's no narrative to it. It also serves as a sort of display device, as a kind of table for displaying some sculptural fragments."

"[I want] to find new ways of looking at things that might otherwise be very familiar to you, or might otherwise seem kind of banal or uninteresting."

— Josh Tonsfeldt
Quentin Still image Josh Tonsfeldt
Josh Tonsfeldt's video installation, Quentin — on display in Oklahoma Contemporary's Shadow on the Glare exhibition — captures with disarming detail the minute experiences of a family reunion in northeastern Oklahoma. In this captured image, a spider interacts with discarded food from a family picnic.

Tonsfeldt is the only Bright Golden Haze artist to also be featured in Shadow on the Glare, our third-floor exhibition of works by Oklahoma artists responding to the themes of light and place in our inaugural exhibition. While the artist's work draws generously from a wide variety of media, his Quentin (2018) video installation on display upstairs gets to the root of his interest in creating still and moving images.

"I started out working in photography and taking pictures. That's all about observation and going out into the world to find new ways of looking at things that might otherwise be very familiar to you, or might otherwise seem kind of banal or uninteresting," Tonsfeldt said. "I think that, in a way, led me into trying to look at objects and materials you might not otherwise consider or find so interesting to look at, and reconsider them."

Visitors will have plenty to consider, and reconsider, when Oklahoma Contemporary is able to open its doors to the public. Until then, here are a couple videos to help acquaint you with the work of this one-of-a-kind artist before you're able to experience it in person.

Images: 

Josh Tonsfeldt. Untitled, 2015. LCD television, digital video, carbon fiber, fiberglass, CFL tubes, dust mask, pigment print on hydrographic film, pigment inks, resin. 30 x 55 x 60 inches. Photo by Alex Marks. 

Photo of Josh Tonsfeldt by Dennis Spielman.

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