New York

Claire Moore

Robert Freidus Gallery

With a hand reminiscent of old Dutch masters, Claire Moore sketches visual diaries of places she has been, and records multitudes of facts about each place. The results are an intimate diary, a journal compounded of fact and impression. With changes in mood reflected in the energy of each line, her narrative drawings contain an essence of personality that is particular, specific, and simultaneously ageless and archetypal. A product of 22 years of drawing and labeling, these “Interiors, Exteriors” have the freshness of newer works by younger artists who have just discovered the fascination of words and word-art. Moore refers to her labeling as “words conveying bits of information I would like to remember but which for the most part cannot be drawn.” Yet it is doubtful that this sensitive artist could not draw just about anything she wanted to, whether it be as mundane as a clothes hanger or as ephemeral as a fit of depression. Changing her content to match a fleeting emotional atmosphere, her drawings are perfect proof of this ability.

Drawings from the McDowell Colony group are expansive, airy—her characteristic scrawl relaxes into potential energy. Placed to represent sworls of grass or protruding roots, her ink lines create an overall pattern of scratches, dense lines spread out over a wide area. Few words intrude upon the landscapes, but these are, as usual, factual labels of place and direction. Somehow, an air of general happiness pervades each drawing, as if the artist is glad to point the way to the dining hall or choose a particular grassy knoll for relaxing. In contrast, her interiors, views of half-finished skyscrapers and dingy Chicago courtyards, are permeated with something plaintive, as if representing a condition of life somehow accepted with a humorously critical eye.

A mad confusion of details, listing doorknobs, shower fixtures, broken lamps and stuck doors, overlays each scene. Blending unobtrusively into the interior detail, the words act as description as well as content. Rather than disturbing the accuracy of her realistic drawing, they seen to imply a universality of the human condition of living in hotel rooms. The carefully observed furnishings deserve to be callously labeled; they are the epitome of the impersonal, in the exact state of decay that makes them immediately familiar and easy to disregard.

Murky, bleak washes of one dominant color set the tone in each drawing. An intricate mesh of ink lines blends the wash and line detail into a moody monochrome, uniting word and image in a dense overall informality. Buildings in green and pink streaks convey a polluted urban atmosphere; notations of “storm clouds overhead,” details of “construction abandoned 5 years ago,” the postscript adding “windows don’t open, ever” add up to an almost total picture of human alienation amidst urban renewal, and citified progress.

With varying views, off-center compositions of sides of office buildings, or intimate portraits (the edge of a table placed carefully beside a plastic-covered chair seat) these small drawings accomplish what the overblown photo-realist canvas cannot—a microcosm of minutely observed detail that implies a universe of identical scenes. Clearly, mechanical perfection is not necessary; what is necessary is the achingly human hand that is swayed by situation. Moore unites work and image so masterfully it would seem unnatural to separate them again.

Captioned art has usually been used with flippancy, comic or satirical as the case would be—Moore’s captions are intense epigrams. A way to confront each changing environment, they record, comment, and ultimately dismiss the importance of every observed item—the whole as the sum of its parts.

Deborah Perlberg