I'll never forget that Wednesday when Frank Moore took me to meet a curator at the Whitney Museum for a tour of the exhibition "The American Century" . He was so excited about the tour; he wanted to watch the entire film of the making of Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty, and as the film progressed he grew impatient and started talking to the screen saying, "Come on Robert, finish it already " His enthusiasm was both embarrassing and amusing to witness as we galloped through the exhibition. After it was all over we walked down Madison Avenue; with the Whitney receding in our wake, he confided in me that he was disappointed that the Whitney had not chosen any of his work for the show.
Study for Beacon III, 1998, gouache, pencil and watercolor on Arches paper
11 1/4 x 15 1/8 inches
Frank died on Sunday, April 21, 2002, at the young age of 48 after living with HIV/AIDS for over 17 years. Even though he is gone his energy and stories live on, I can't help but miss him. He was a friend and a real voice of the times he lived in.
Since that Wednesday afternoon, Frank's work has been honored with several significant museum exhibitions and most recently a survey of his last works is on view at the Sperone Westwater gallery through October 25th.
Through out his career Frank's art reflected an "evolving relationship between nature and technology which was both awe-inspiring and deeply disturbing. " In this show, his sensibility pervades the gallery, from queer politics to environmental activism. Appropriately titled, Farewell is the first painting seen as you enter the gallery. It depicts a terrified pair of flowers staring out from the canvas with glass eyes as gardening sheers threaten to cut its life short. In the back ground is a scene right out of Dr. Zeus's The Lorax, a desolate landscape of tree stumps misty and sad. The show is dominated by powerful studies of gauche on paper. One such study, Legacy shows another tree stump but in this instance the stump has a coffin shape carved from the missing trunk and sprouting from the coffin are the limbs of the absent tree and the corpse contained within reaching out to birds of every feather. Upon seeing this piece I had an uncanny desire to both laugh and cry. His renderings have a solemn goofiness that has always caught me off guard. And just looking at the birds reminds me of this silly singing bird clock that Frank had in his kitchen which sang a different bird's song each hour. I thought it was the tackiest thing in the world. He just loved that clock.
In the back gallery there are more images of nature gone awry yet most of
all, Frank's art resonates the alarm sounded by the AIDS epidemic. Frank,
a founding member of Visual
AIDS, made considerable contributions to raise AIDS awareness. Through
community activism, he participated in the creation of The Ribbon Project.
Through is art work Frank explored with hope and humor the biologic and environmental
challenges we faced then and now. Both personal and political he captured
our stories with fantasy and sentiment. In one of the smaller galleries are
two small studies he did for the painting Beacon . While he was still painting this piece he was struggling to depict a sense
of hope into a dark narrative. In the Study
for Beacon III , he depicts a man in a hospital bed, an IV stand bobbing
like a festive gaggle of Chinese lanterns adrift in a cold ocean of isolation.
He was unsure about what the beacon would be, either a portal with a doctor
in it or a light house. He finally decided on the light house because it encompassed
a wider reading of hope. A reading that included the pioneers in medicine
that he both criticized and admired, but more importantly the hope represented
by the fellowship of friends and his indomitable spirit that has been a beacon
in the dark times he witnessed.
This review also appears online at Art For Real.
Sperone Westwater Gallery
12 September 2003 through 25 October 2003
415 West 13 Street, New York, NY 10014
Photos Courtesy of Sperone Westwater
Frank Moore Foundation: http://www.gesso.org/
Legacy, 1999, gouache on paper
22 1/4 x 17 1/4 inches
with glass eyeballs and gilt American Victorian
39 1/2 x 56 inches