UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive mounts survey of rarely seen paintings by Frank Moore
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UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive mounts survey of rarely seen paintings by Frank Moore
Frank Moore: Patti Smith, 1979. Oil on canvas; 34 x 38 in. Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Gift of Linda Mac and Michael LaBash, Inter-Relations.

BERKELEY, CALIF.- The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) opened the first museum exhibition of work by Frank Moore, the late Berkeley artist who was an important figure in the Bay Area’s counterculture movement during the 1970s. The exhibition, that started on January 24th, features nearly thirty of Moore’s paintings, an underexamined aspect of the artist’s prodigious career—which also encompassed poetry, music, performance art, filmmaking, shamanic rituals, and public access television over five decades of creative output. The latest installment in the museum’s MATRIX Program for Contemporary Art, Frank Moore / MATRIX 280: Theater of Human Melting highlights the acquisition by BAMPFA of two paintings by Moore, including his iconic portrait of the musician Patti Smith.

Born with a disability that affected his speech and movement, Moore (1946-2013) produced a vast body of work focused on the relationships between bodies and objects, subjects and observers. A graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, Moore was deeply influenced by the countercultural currents of the Bay Area during the 1970s, becoming widely known for provocative performance art presentations that incorporated nudity and eroticism as well as shamanic practices and durational elements. Moore also published extensively as a poet, playwright, and essayist, and beginning in theearly 2000s he produced a recurring arts program for Berkeley’s public access channel that later transitioned into a web series. He also remained active in radical politics until the end of his life, most notably as a write-in candidate for President in 2008.

Amid this eclectic output, Moore’s work as a painter remains comparatively underrecognized, despite its centrality to his creative practice from the 1960s through the 1980s. Frank Moore / MATRIX 280: Theater of Human Melting offers an opportunity to reconsider this important aspect of Moore’s artistic legacy, presenting twenty-nine works displayed salon-style in the exhibition gallery. The exhibition highlights Moore’s distinctive use of oil paint to create evocative still lifes, landscapes, and portraiture, with subjects ranging from anonymous nudes to pop culture icons like Batman and Darth Vader. Among the notable works in the exhibition are a painting of Frankenstein’s monster, a rarely seen self-portrait of the artist, and two paintings that were acquired by BAMPFA in 2018: Mariah (1977), and Patti Smith (1979).

Frank Moore / MATRIX 280: Theater of Human Melting is guest curated by Vincent Fecteau and Keith Wilson, both working artists with deep connections to the Bay Area. Their work on the exhibition draws in part on Moore’s extensive archives, which are currently held at UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library. To provide additional context on Moore’s life and work, the curators have chosen to include the video Let Me Be Frank, a trailer for an documentary series about the artist that will play on a loop in the exhibition gallery.

“We hope this exhibition provides an opportunity for Berkeley and the Bay Area to encounter Frank Moore’s exuberant, confrontational, and at times discomforting work,” said Wilson. “Yes, the paintings were rendered with a brush attached to Frank’s head band, but we are most interested in the way the work points to a universal desire for deeper, embodied connections in a world of increasing fragmentation and isolation.”

On View January 25 through April 23, 2023.

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