David Moore’s Vibe (2/2/03)

Joseph D. Ketner
Chief Currator: Milwalkee Art Museum

David Moore’s recent series of paintings, Vibe, do indeed vibrate. Arcing strokes interrupt a steady rhythm of parallel lines to generate an oscillating, musical effect. This is a breakthrough body of work for David.

David is best known as the artist of the laboriously scored surface, who uses subtle nuances of color within the tight geometry of the grid. In works of the past decade, he strictly limited his means and his marks to maximize the pictorial effect of surface compression and intensity. He imposed a system of specific limitations within which he explored infinite variations in his attempt to convey the human experience through abstraction.

David empathizes with the Argentine author, Jorge Luis Borges, who, in his Library of Babylon (1956), constructs a library of indefinitely connecting hexagonal floors that contain a series of books that canvas the entirety of human knowledge, utilizing only 26 different characters. Librarians consumed by the quest for knowledge achieve enlightenment or go mad, endlessly searching the minute variations of the 26 characters. This has been David Moore’s quest for over the past decade, to arrive at artistic awareness through the compulsive repetition of reduced elements. This search has marked his work from the beginning.

In the late 1970s, David produced his first mature works. He adopted the ritual of setting out each day to paint the landscapes in the streets of Boston. With a socially responsible conscience, he spent a decade recording the dismantling of the landmark Dover Station, current political events, and painting prison murals. David came to understand that his artistic process was rewarding not on account of the subject matter, but because of the diaristic act of returning to the same place daily to perform the act of mark making. This revelation motivated him to begin to explore the potential of the abstract mark to delve into human psychology.

Realizing he needed the studio time and a peer group to coalesce his ideas, he matriculated at Bard College for his MFA. There the performance aspect his work became manifest, and he directed participatory performances mixing dining, painting, and food stains to create a small group of tablecloth paintings. Responding to the severe criticism of his anachronistic approach, David turned instead to the fundamentals of art. His innate sense of order led him to the rigor of drawing from nature and artificial systems, diatoms, geological rock formations, and numerology. Since then David has been engaged in reconciling his primal urge to performance and his intellectual quest for order.

David’s compulsion order led him in the early 1990s to work with the unnatural, artificial construct of the grid, and the infinite possibilities it offered. Over the next decade he intensified his search, refining and reworking again and again the horizontal and vertical elements. According to the artist, he creates these subtle variations to “merge the human verticality with landscape references.” Initially working with colored squares floating in a shallow figure-ground relationship, David began scoring horizontal and vertical strokes around 1994. This technique reached its supreme resolution in the Freedom Point series of 1997, which radiates an ambiance of spirituality and meditation. On intimate inspection, however, the paintings reveal a compulsively scored surface that holds the horizontals and verticals in an anxious equilibrium, emphasized by the slightly off square format of the panel. The artist aptly describes these works as “obsessive abstraction.”

The formal clarity, purity, and simplicity of these paintings suggest Minimal Art. Yet, to describe them as minimal is misleading. Through the scored marks and the radiant hues, David sought to communicate the emotional content of gestural painting and the spirituality of color-field painting. These paintings are minimal art about gesture, and as such contradict the essential dogmas of minimalism. The transcendental calm of his work is reminiscent of Agnes Martin or Mark Rothko.

Tragedy can sometimes result in a regeneration of our spirit. David's artistic development was interrupted by an automobile accident in 1999 that left him unable to paint. During his rehabilitation he experienced the loss of his two means of expression- painting and performance. Not only was he unable to work in the studio, he could not continue playing the musical saw as a sideman in a blues band. In a series of studio visits we spoke about how he could move forward in the development of his artistic process and correlate his musical and visual interests. While rehabilitating his injuries, David produced a series of beautiful watercolors in which he began to loosen the strict, grid strokes. At first, in his Montauk series, he drew horizontal strokes freehand, them he experimented with leaving the edges open, so the stokes dangled with a free, unfinished quality. Finally, in a spontaneous gesture, he created Twang (2002), swinging his arm across the paper in an arc practiced from his rehabilitation exercises and years of bowing the saw. David originally created Twang as a series of horizontal strokes, but sensing the potential energy of a vertical orientation we turned the page on its side and suddenly the paper sang with the reverberation of a plucked string or a bowed saw.

David immediately recognized the dynamism inherent in Twang, catalyzing him to produce a new series of paintings that he titled Vibe. The staccato patterns of vertical strokes activated periodically by arcs both open up the space in his paintings and create scintillating surfaces. These are the first truly square paintings the artist has produced, but the dynamism of the surface counteracts the rigid tension of the grid: Apollonian order is balanced with Dionysian exuberance. And, yes, color. The playfulness of the lines frees David to expand the range of his palette. The Vibe paintings blast with the trumpet fanfare of brilliant reds and the somber sonorities of gray and black. David also orchestrated delicate schemes of lavenders, blues and greens, as well as acidic yellows. The paintings work both individually and as movements within a larger composition. The series compels us to arrange and rearrange the paintings to create new ensemble of colors and patterns, each with its own voice and identity. With the Vibe series, David synthesized his passion for musical performance and his sense of visual order: “The saw compliments the paintings, the internal vibration of its tone, the single tone, and the hum. It’s like the vibrations of the lines and colors in the paintings.” These works sing a new melody in the artist’s opus.

Sections

"Vibe"

David Moore’s Vibe (2/2/03)

Joseph D. Ketner
Chief Currator: Milwalkee Art Museum

David Moore’s recent series of paintings, Vibe, do indeed vibrate. Arcing strokes interrupt a steady rhythm of parallel lines to generate an oscillating, musical effect. This is a breakthrough body of work for David.

David is best known as the artist of the laboriously scored surface, who uses subtle nuances of color within the tight geometry of the grid. In works of the past decade, he strictly limited his means and his marks to maximize the pictorial effect of surface compression and intensity. He imposed a system of specific limitations within which he explored infinite variations in his attempt to convey the human experience through abstraction.

David empathizes with the Argentine author, Jorge Luis Borges, who, in his Library of Babylon (1956), constructs a library of indefinitely connecting hexagonal floors that contain a series of books that canvas the entirety of human knowledge, utilizing only 26 different characters. Librarians consumed by the quest for knowledge achieve enlightenment or go mad, endlessly searching the minute variations of the 26 characters. This has been David Moore’s quest for over the past decade, to arrive at artistic awareness through the compulsive repetition of reduced elements. This search has marked his work from the beginning.

In the late 1970s, David produced his first mature works. He adopted the ritual of setting out each day to paint the landscapes in the streets of Boston. With a socially responsible conscience, he spent a decade recording the dismantling of the landmark Dover Station, current political events, and painting prison murals. David came to understand that his artistic process was rewarding not on account of the subject matter, but because of the diaristic act of returning to the same place daily to perform the act of mark making. This revelation motivated him to begin to explore the potential of the abstract mark to delve into human psychology.

Realizing he needed the studio time and a peer group to coalesce his ideas, he matriculated at Bard College for his MFA. There the performance aspect his work became manifest, and he directed participatory performances mixing dining, painting, and food stains to create a small group of tablecloth paintings. Responding to the severe criticism of his anachronistic approach, David turned instead to the fundamentals of art. His innate sense of order led him to the rigor of drawing from nature and artificial systems, diatoms, geological rock formations, and numerology. Since then David has been engaged in reconciling his primal urge to performance and his intellectual quest for order.

David’s compulsion order led him in the early 1990s to work with the unnatural, artificial construct of the grid, and the infinite possibilities it offered. Over the next decade he intensified his search, refining and reworking again and again the horizontal and vertical elements. According to the artist, he creates these subtle variations to “merge the human verticality with landscape references.” Initially working with colored squares floating in a shallow figure-ground relationship, David began scoring horizontal and vertical strokes around 1994. This technique reached its supreme resolution in the Freedom Point series of 1997, which radiates an ambiance of spirituality and meditation. On intimate inspection, however, the paintings reveal a compulsively scored surface that holds the horizontals and verticals in an anxious equilibrium, emphasized by the slightly off square format of the panel. The artist aptly describes these works as “obsessive abstraction.”

The formal clarity, purity, and simplicity of these paintings suggest Minimal Art. Yet, to describe them as minimal is misleading. Through the scored marks and the radiant hues, David sought to communicate the emotional content of gestural painting and the spirituality of color-field painting. These paintings are minimal art about gesture, and as such contradict the essential dogmas of minimalism. The transcendental calm of his work is reminiscent of Agnes Martin or Mark Rothko.

Tragedy can sometimes result in a regeneration of our spirit. David's artistic development was interrupted by an automobile accident in 1999 that left him unable to paint. During his rehabilitation he experienced the loss of his two means of expression- painting and performance. Not only was he unable to work in the studio, he could not continue playing the musical saw as a sideman in a blues band. In a series of studio visits we spoke about how he could move forward in the development of his artistic process and correlate his musical and visual interests. While rehabilitating his injuries, David produced a series of beautiful watercolors in which he began to loosen the strict, grid strokes. At first, in his Montauk series, he drew horizontal strokes freehand, them he experimented with leaving the edges open, so the stokes dangled with a free, unfinished quality. Finally, in a spontaneous gesture, he created Twang (2002), swinging his arm across the paper in an arc practiced from his rehabilitation exercises and years of bowing the saw. David originally created Twang as a series of horizontal strokes, but sensing the potential energy of a vertical orientation we turned the page on its side and suddenly the paper sang with the reverberation of a plucked string or a bowed saw.

David immediately recognized the dynamism inherent in Twang, catalyzing him to produce a new series of paintings that he titled Vibe. The staccato patterns of vertical strokes activated periodically by arcs both open up the space in his paintings and create scintillating surfaces. These are the first truly square paintings the artist has produced, but the dynamism of the surface counteracts the rigid tension of the grid: Apollonian order is balanced with Dionysian exuberance. And, yes, color. The playfulness of the lines frees David to expand the range of his palette. The Vibe paintings blast with the trumpet fanfare of brilliant reds and the somber sonorities of gray and black. David also orchestrated delicate schemes of lavenders, blues and greens, as well as acidic yellows. The paintings work both individually and as movements within a larger composition. The series compels us to arrange and rearrange the paintings to create new ensemble of colors and patterns, each with its own voice and identity. With the Vibe series, David synthesized his passion for musical performance and his sense of visual order: “The saw compliments the paintings, the internal vibration of its tone, the single tone, and the hum. It’s like the vibrations of the lines and colors in the paintings.” These works sing a new melody in the artist’s opus.

Sections