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Most comprehensive presentation to date of work by Frank Moore opens at NYU's Grey Art Gallery
Frank Moore, Lullaby, 1997. Oil and silkscreen on canvas mounted on featherboard, in artist’s frame (red pine), 50 x 65 in. Private collection, Milan. Image: Courtesy Sperone Westwater, New York.

NEW YORK, NY.- On view from September 6 through December 8, 2012, at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery and Fales Library, "Toxic Beauty: The Art of Frank Moore" the most comprehensive presentation to date of work by this remarkable artist whose life was cut short by AIDS. Curated by independent scholar Susan Harris with Grey Art Gallery director Lynn Gumpert, the exhibition features approximately 35 major paintings and over 50 gouaches, prints, and drawings, as well as numerous sketchbooks, films, maquettes, source materials, and ephemera.

Spanning Frank Moore’s entire career, the retrospective is on view at both the Grey Art Gallery and the Tracey/Barry Gallery at Fales Library, which houses NYU’s special collections and renowned Downtown Collection, the world’s most extensive archive of books, journals, posters, and ephemera relating to lower Manhattan’s artistic scene since 1970. “We are pleased to host this first major survey of Frank Moore’s remarkable work,” notes Lynn Gumpert. “The Grey Art Gallery and Fales Library are ideal locations for this scholarly assessment. NYU’s lower Manhattan location was also the former stomping grounds of Moore and his artist friends active in the Downtown scene.”

Born in New York City, Frank Moore (1953–2002) was raised on Long Island and spent his childhood summers in the Adirondacks, sparking a lifelong interest in the natural environment. He went on to study art and psychology at Yale University and spent a year in Paris from 1977–78 at the Cité des Arts. Returning to Manhattan in 1979, Moore enthusiastically participated in the burgeoning art scene.

Moore is best known for his figurative and highly detailed large-scale paintings filled with fantastic and symbolic images. The works’ intricate, polished surfaces and allegorical content create compelling windows into provocative alternate universes. Moore’s paintings allude to American culture and presciently address ecological concerns and the dangers of genetically modified foods. Often autobiographical, many of the paintings also reference Moore’s personal life and his HIV-positive status. His focus on AIDS and the state of the health care industry culminate in paintings such as Wizard (1994), which features pharmaceutical containers embedded in the frame. “The vast array of themes Frank Moore addresses in his paintings reveals a Renaissance-like approach to making art,” observes Susan Harris, guest curator of the exhibition. “He meticulously researched these themes and invented a complex and stunning visual vocabulary with which to explore them.”

Moore frequently created elaborate, customized frames for his already complex images. Employing diverse materials such as rough-hewn wood, seed packets, rope, and bound books, Moore set off dynamic interactions between unique three-dimensional sculptural frames and their two-dimensional yet illusionistic subjects. A series of paintings about Niagara Falls are encircled by copper piping and spigots, alluding to the flow of water and to the fact that the Falls can be turned on and off. The Niagara Falls series and others demonstrate Moore’s admiration for American landscape painters, such as the Hudson River School artists. Rather than marveling at the sublime wonder of nature, however, Moore drew attention to increasing pollution plaguing the environment: in Niagara (1994–95), stenciled chemical symbols churn in the falls’ waves and waft away with the mist, reflecting the numerous contaminants that have been identified in this quintessentially American landmark. Cognizant of his own humble vegetable garden in Deposit, New York, and of America’s vast but overused national parks, Moore depicted nature’s many “sites of great, but toxic, beauty.”

In addition to creating his paintings and works on paper, he collaborated on performances, dance productions, and films. Throughout the 1980s, Moore worked with innovative choreographer Jim Self on the experimental film Beehive (1982–86), which won the prestigious Bessie award in 1985. Beehive—a balletic narrative about the daily activities of a colony of bees—will be screened as part of Toxic Beauty and will be accompanied by Moore’s never-before-exhibited preparatory sketches for the film’s costume and set designs, storyboards, and production notes.

Alongside his multifaceted artistic endeavors, Moore was also an activist: he was an early member of the group Visual AIDS and participated in the creation of the AIDS red ribbon. He also helped develop the Archive Project, which endeavors to document and preserve works created by people with AIDS in all artistic disciplines.

The Grey’s previous collaborations with Fales Library have resulted in the well-received exhibitions The Downtown Show: The New York Art Scene, 1974–1984 and Downtown Pix: Mining the Fales Archives, 1961–1991, shown in 2006 and 2010 respectively. Moore’s involvement with NYU extends back to 1980, when he lectured about artists designing for dance productions in conjunction with the Grey Art Gallery’s Sonia Delaunay retrospective.

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