Nov 7, 2011

EXHIBITION | Donald Moffett | The Extravagant Vein

Entrance of the Donald Moffett exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston

Having grown up only 30 minutes away from Houston’s art district, I am ashamed to say that I have only  been to the Houston Museum of Fine Art once and honestly I was a too young to really appreciate my time there, or even begin to slightly understand what it was I was looking at. So when I decided it was time to visit my sweet family back home, I knew I must take advantage of going back to the art district. This time after I wandered around the MFA’s sculpture garden I crossed the street and found myself at the Contemporary Art Museum of Houston where I discovered Donald Moffett’s The Extravagant Vein.

Upon entering the gallery space you are welcomed by a soft and simple blue wall with the Artist and Exhibit name, along with two of his paintings with video projections on them.  The wall does not connect to anything other than the floor giving the viewer full control as to where they’d like to begin their tour of the space. Through out the rest of the gallery there are a few more partial walls, perfect for denoting a specific series of work, as well as keeping a smooth flow to each new series and allowing the viewer to have the freedom and control to wander as they please. The first time around I did stick to an orderly right-to-left tour of the space but the next time I picked the specific series I wanted to see again and played with walking in and seeing the pieces at a whole new angle (this freedom to roam was my favorite part of the set up if you couldn't tell). 

I started my tour by going right, along the main right wall of the space where there was a large description of the exhibit. It is in this description that I learn that I would not only be seeing Moffett’s work from his Extravagant Vein series, but some of his work from the past two decades. Valerie Cassel Oliver, the CAMH's Senior Curator, chose 9 of Moffett's series to be shown, all of which highlight Moffett's interest in protest and activism, politics, and gays in historical and contemporary culture. The first piece that caught my eye is a large wall piece called "He Kills Me." The overwhelming size and color was almost dizzying, but served its purpose as a propaganda poster series for Gran Fury, the creative propaganda arm of ACT UP. Placed directly on top of that was some monochrome photographs from Moffett's Blue series inspired by the Manhattan sky line view from his apartment. This juxtaposition is supposed to bring optimism of the advances of medicine for AIDS to the anger that was felt toward the government for there view of those with AIDS.

Donald Moffett, He Kills Me, Poster, Offset Lithograph 
Continuing through, the next section of paintings come from The Extravagant Vein series which the exhibit was named after. I particularly enjoyed the set up and arrangement for these paintings, it had the same partial wall display that sandwiched you between the interiors main wall, but instead of one flat surface it had a curve to it which turned the space in to a path rather than just a standing area. At first one may not notice the significance in this but once you've read the statement you understand that the images around you are scenes from Central Park and you are then transported there as if you are very much on a trail in the middle of that lush scene. Although, unfortunately it is not all sunshine and butterflies, but rather a tug of war between pleasure and danger. Moffett uses his light loop technique to project scenes from the Ramble, an area of Central Park know for being a "gay cruising site," on to canvases he has painted gold. Unfortunately it has also been the home to many violent homophobic attacks, hence the notion of danger. 

Donald Moffett, The Extravagant Vein, 2003
 I really enjoyed this exhibit as a whole, Oliver did a great job pulling pieces that were diverse while still keeping them cohesive. The gallery was spacious and bright, and well organized. I plan on revisiting this museum next time I'm in Houston in hopes of having another enjoyable art experience. I highly recommend checking this place out and have no fear, if you find yourself not being a fan of that particular exhibit, go downstairs and check out there awesome gift shop, win/win situation!

-Courtney Rodrigues


Contributor said...

This was a very interesting review to read. In fact, I must admit that when I started reading it I was not immediatly drawn in, but once I started the second paragraph I was enthralled. I loved the way you described the space I found it very calming. I also really like how I can definatly hear your voice in it and I really enjoy the fact that you made the review more fun to read through your voice. Great job!

- Kristi Underwood

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