Monday, October 1st, 2007

Gordon Moore

Gordon Moore
By Fay Ku

Betty Cuningham Gallery
541 West 25th Street
New York City
212 242 2772

September 6 to October 13, 2007

Gordon Moore, Scroll, 2007. Latex, ink, pumice on canvas, 90 x 66 inches. © Gordon Moore, courtesy of Betty Cuningham Gallery, New York.
Gordon Moore, Scroll, 2007. Latex, ink, pumice on canvas, 90 x 66 inches. © Gordon Moore, courtesy of Betty Cuningham Gallery, New York.

For this, his second solo exhibition at Betty Cuningham, Gordon Moore confined his meditations within narrow parameters.  His paintings’ similarity in structure, palette and treatment of form is a framework like the fixed verse form of a poem, emphasizing painting as a craft and his own person lyricism.

Each painting possesses a single, open form, an architectural skeleton of thin, taped-edged lines.  Even the curvilinear is a careful arrangement of straight segments.  Other than the addition of green on two canvases, Moore restricts his tonal palette to grays, tan, red, black, and white.  The works on canvas, paper and photo paper come in roughly three dimensions of similar vertical proportions.   Moore divides each painting into three unequal sections traversed by a single abstract, ribbon-like form. As these lines make their way from one section to the next, the color and/or the paint handling change, often abruptly, and meet slightly off-register to create a collaged effect.  The paint is applied in thin, translucent layers that, through a variety of methods, create a surprising range of paint surfaces.  His paint handling is subtle but not delicate, and at moments tough even. 

The paintings are abstract, formal extrapolations that refer to urban reality.  A set of four works on photo paper reveals the original source of his imagery: industrial beams attached to a plain surface and their cast shadows.  Adding more ink and acrylic “rebars”, the artist creates spidery constructions that then serve as inspiration for half the canvases.  In these paintings, Scroll, Clothesline, Untitled (Tarpit), and Untitled (One in the Hand), all 2007, the industrial structures translate as a heroic albeit non-anthropomorphic figure, well defined against the hazy ambiance of grays and tans of the background.

These are romantic paintings, with some lines painted over, partially obscured and blurred, a soft-focused trace evoking ideas of movement, memories or ghosts.  The artist plays with the edges, disguising the geometric borders of the canvas. He introduces materials such as pumice and latex to create a warmer surface.  The use of latex is especially telling; while the material references the industrial, it creates skin suggestive of a living thing.  And here the idea begins to surface that perhaps Moore wants to create something more than a painting of beautiful neutrals.

There is a second set of works on photo paper.  Here, the original photographed rebars are completely obscured by ink and acrylic paint.  What appears instead is a tent-like structure that serves as the model and manifests as a simplified, and vaguely ovoid in the large works on paper and on two other canvases. The reference to industrial structures is no longer apparent.

In the alcove between the two galleries hangs Untitled, 2007, a study in contrast, dominated by a large rectangular black plane situated at the top left while the rest of the background is painted white and very light gray. The line is rendered in white in all three sections; in the right third of the canvas, the line has not been painted but is instead negative space, the white ground exposed and outlined by a halo of stained blood—a symbolically loaded material relating to biology rather than the industrial.  A mark made by a brush dragged along still-wet black paint is barely perceptible.  Inside and echoing the contours of a larger oval with a pointed top, this loose gesture appears suspiciously like an upside-down heart.  This may be reading too much, it may be a coincidence. However, this painting, the only one containing blood, is set aside apart from the other works and is positioned in the “heart” of the gallery.  It seems in this work the artist wants to introduce narrative content within his formal abstractions, that there is something he wants to say. Moore has already amply shown that he is a painter of remarkable skill and intelligence.  Regarding emotional content, a vulnerability hinted at but frozen beneath his virtuosity, it would be better if he took the riskand not remain so tentative.