The Self and the Landscape in Abstraction

Carl Belz
Director Emeritus of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University April 2, 1999

David Moore has always painted occasional landscapes, favorite places he returns to or discovers on holidays, and that practice informs these new paintings just as it has informed his paintings throughout the past decade, however abstract they might otherwise appear. And they are radically abstract, verging at the times on what is call the monochrome, a single color – red or orange, pink, or blue – dominating each one and providing a syntax for the myriad incidents that are contained within them. Still landscape provides an experiential context for the paintings. We feel it in the way the dominant color, whose saturation results from an accumulation of multiple glazes, each of which is vertically and horizontally scored with a stylus or pencil pressed against a straight edge, expands physically before us, rising and spreading, bodying forth whole at the same time receding, like a section of the natural world structured by the wood panel that is the picture support. Their internal incidents likewise recall landscape, the incessant scorings providing the kind of information we find in nature itself when looking out any window, information that is virtually infinite in its abundance, more than we could ever account for with the naked eye. The painting’s emphasis on a single color imparts them a strong initial impact, gripping us like a suddenly seen and arresting vista and making them see, fast, but they fully reward patient looking, revealing their depths and details slowly, as when the fullness of the vista becomes absorbed.

Informed and accessed by the tradition of landscape painting these paintings may be, but they certainly don’t look like landscape paintings in any conventional sense, not any more than Mondrian’s look like maps of city streets. They look like what they are, radical abstractions. In this regard, I think it’s significant that the supports are vertically proportioned and therefore window-like, reminding us that the paintings summons to nature issues from a human perspective and is framed by the studio where the paintings are made. Equally human is their manner of construction: the glazes are selected intuitively, allowing the dominant color in each case to assume its own weight and density of feeling, and the scored lines, while straight and razor-sharp, are improvisationally paced rather than measured, their rhythms intensely agitated at one moment and quietly flowing in the next, which means they are invariably felt and allowed their own resonance, which is never programmed never mechanical. David Moore is an accomplished abstract artist whose work has evolved out of landscape painting while also radicalizing it, probing its essential character, not surprisingly, he is also an accomplished musician

Sections

"Self in Landscape"

The Self and the Landscape in Abstraction

Carl Belz
Director Emeritus of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University April 2, 1999

David Moore has always painted occasional landscapes, favorite places he returns to or discovers on holidays, and that practice informs these new paintings just as it has informed his paintings throughout the past decade, however abstract they might otherwise appear. And they are radically abstract, verging at the times on what is call the monochrome, a single color – red or orange, pink, or blue – dominating each one and providing a syntax for the myriad incidents that are contained within them. Still landscape provides an experiential context for the paintings. We feel it in the way the dominant color, whose saturation results from an accumulation of multiple glazes, each of which is vertically and horizontally scored with a stylus or pencil pressed against a straight edge, expands physically before us, rising and spreading, bodying forth whole at the same time receding, like a section of the natural world structured by the wood panel that is the picture support. Their internal incidents likewise recall landscape, the incessant scorings providing the kind of information we find in nature itself when looking out any window, information that is virtually infinite in its abundance, more than we could ever account for with the naked eye. The painting’s emphasis on a single color imparts them a strong initial impact, gripping us like a suddenly seen and arresting vista and making them see, fast, but they fully reward patient looking, revealing their depths and details slowly, as when the fullness of the vista becomes absorbed.

Informed and accessed by the tradition of landscape painting these paintings may be, but they certainly don’t look like landscape paintings in any conventional sense, not any more than Mondrian’s look like maps of city streets. They look like what they are, radical abstractions. In this regard, I think it’s significant that the supports are vertically proportioned and therefore window-like, reminding us that the paintings summons to nature issues from a human perspective and is framed by the studio where the paintings are made. Equally human is their manner of construction: the glazes are selected intuitively, allowing the dominant color in each case to assume its own weight and density of feeling, and the scored lines, while straight and razor-sharp, are improvisationally paced rather than measured, their rhythms intensely agitated at one moment and quietly flowing in the next, which means they are invariably felt and allowed their own resonance, which is never programmed never mechanical. David Moore is an accomplished abstract artist whose work has evolved out of landscape painting while also radicalizing it, probing its essential character, not surprisingly, he is also an accomplished musician

Sections