artist / participant
As part of a growing initiative to increase holdings by artists from Texas or currently based in the state, the Blanton Museum of Art presents a special installation of newly acquired works by San Antonio native Donald Moffett. With eight works by the artist in its collection, the Blanton holds more works by Moffett than any other museum in the United States. This presentation aims to showcase the artist's diverse and influential practice through a rich variety of media including painting, projected video on canvas, and photographs.
Moffett emerged on the New York art scene in the late 1970s and quickly became immersed in political activism. He understood the power of art to affect change, and in the early 1980s was a founding member of Gran Fury, the artistic arm of the AIDS activist group ACT UP. He later co-founded Bureau, a design company created to support social causes. In addition to his work that investigates and advances social justice, Moffett is celebrated for his innovative use of materials and non-traditional approach to the canvas.
Since the 1990s, Moffett has unraveled the norms and conventions associated with painting. Holes and openings puncture many of his canvases, making them appear assaulted or buckshot. In the Lot 102807 (Yellow) (2007), for example, Moffett painted the back the unzipped painting. Even more unexpectedly, the center of the painting is not canvas, but the wall itself, painted yellow. Typically, the wall is a backdrop for art—a surface that we overlook and ignore. In Moffett's art, the margins and the center often trade places.
Moffett once remarked in an interview that he likes to "complicate painting." This installation features painting that becomes three-dimensional and flirts with being sculpture. It also presents video projected on painting, combining two artistic media that are rarely brought together. Moffett unites even stranger bedfellows as well: abstract art and the human body. Throughout his painting practice, the human body is insinuated in subtle but significant ways: holes suggest bodily orifices and zippers remind us of the bodies they were made to conceal.
Moffett's practice is diverse and difficult to categorize. In addition to his paintings, he often tackles political issues in his art, focusing especially on discrimination and violence. "What Barbara Jordan Wore" (2001), a series of digital photographs, explores the legacy of Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction. Moffett recalls being riveted by Jordan's testimony during the Richard Nixon Watergate hearings that were broadcast live on national television in the summer of 1974. His works underscore the barriers Jordan overcame, reminding us that some traditions are best broken.