I had forgotten about Frank Moore’s paintings until this past fall when Martha Wilson invited me a long to a meeting with Fales Library director Marvin Taylor. Marvin is an amazing cultural resource, a big fan of the Lower East Side arts movements of the 70s and 80s, he’s a guy filled with interesting stories. (To learn more about Marvin Taylor, visit Betty Ling Miu’s blog.) Before the meeting, Marvin asked Martha and I to sit down and watch “Beehive” a 1985 experimental dance film directed by Frank Moore and Jim Self. For the making of the film Frank Moore transformed his studio into an elaborate bee hive in which the dancers perform the elaborate lives of bees. Following the meeting, Marvin dropped us off at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery to see “Toxic Beauty: The Art of Frank Moore,” a retrospective that continues from the Fales Library special collections to the street level gallery across Washington Square Park.
It had been over a decade since I had seen “Beehive” or spent time with Frank Moore’s paintings and I immediately recalled how much these paintings inspired me during undergraduate years at UC Berkley. The paintings are detailed, elaborately portraying societal shortcomings. An element that strongly stands out in Frank Moore’s paintings is the construction of frames that are thematically tied to the paintings. Each painting has its own unique frame from copper water pipes to a frame wrapped with collaged maps. The exhibition captures how prolific Frank Moore was until he died of AIDS at the age of 48. Roberta Smith wrote an excellent review of the exhibition for the NY Times.