Donald Moffett: The Extravagant Vein marks the first comprehensive survey of Donald Moffett’s investigations into art history, paint, and form, providing insight into the breadth and range of his practice over the past twenty years. The exhibition selects from nine important bodies of work that reveal Moffett’s sustained political engagement and explore how he interrogates and blurs the definition of painting, incorporating nontraditional materials such as video and photography.
As an original member of ACT UP and the 1980s AIDS activist collective Gran Fury, Moffett has been—and continues to be—a persistent and influential presence on the New York art scene. His poetic, provocative, and at times humorous paintings—from landscape and nature to politics and history—fearlessly address issues that resonate today such as the rights of openly gay men and women to serve in the military, the aesthetics of gay subcultures, and the rampant scandals that mar our political landscape. An astute and thoughtful painter, Moffett knows the power of the artist, and his love of Spanish Romanticist Francisco Goya (1746-1828) and Italian still-life modernist Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) shows in his ability to blend the subtle with the outlandish, the image with social critique.
In his paintings Moffett extends the traditional two-dimensional frame in a number of ways, including converting the ordinariness of the flat plane into highly textured reliefs, making paintings that are opened up and turned inside out, or presenting intricate illuminations through the use of video projections on the canvas. He incorporates sound and light in his work, sometimes as stand-alone projects, at other times in conjunction with his paintings.
Moffett consistently constructs his works around critical frameworks that engage audiences to think about painting, art, and the political and social issues that shape our contemporary lives. Building on discourses regarding formalism and painting, the exhibition addresses universal issues of loss, alienation, life, and death.
A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies Donald Moffett: The Extravagant Vein, featuring essays by exhibition curator Valerie Cassel Oliver; Bill Arning, Director, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; Douglas Crimp, Fanny Knapp Allen Professor of Art History at the University of Rochester; and Russell Ferguson, Chair of the Department of Art at the University of California, Los Angeles, as well as color reproductions, the artist’s biography, and a bibliography. The catalogue is made possible by a grant from the Brown Foundation, Inc.
Donald Moffett: The Extravagant Vein is on view in the Malloy Wing of the Tang Museum. Additional selections from the show are also featured in the Donald Moffett Reading Room (Kettlewell Print Study Room, second floor) which is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from noon – 5 pm, and by appointment. The Reading Room features works by Moffett from the series Gays in the Military and Mr. Gay in the U.S.A., as well as a selection of reading material chosen by the artist.