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Fri Apr 26 06:53:20 MDT 2002
April 26, 2002
Frank Moore, Painter With Activism on His Palette, 48, Dies
By ROBERTA SMITH
Frank Moore, a painter and AIDS activist whose jewel-like allegories
brought beauty and bite to themes of scientific progress, environmental
pollution and the medical establishment, died on Sunday at a hospital in
Manhattan. He was 48 and lived in Manhattan and Deposit, N.Y.
The cause was AIDS, said David Leiber of the Sperone Westwater Gallery in
One of the first members of Visual AIDS, the artists' arm of Act Up, Mr.
Moore, who was HIV-positive for nearly two decades, was instrumental in the
group's creation of the Red Ribbon Project in 1990. Pinned to lapels, the
looped ribbon became an instantly recognizable symbol for the fight against
AIDS, and inspired similar ribbons in other colors, for other causes.
Mr. Moore's paintings mixed art and politics into refined visual
concoctions that often cloaked hard truths in irresistible trappings.
Brilliantly colored and lighted, rendered with a miniaturist's exactitude
despite their often large size, they reflected hours of research deftly
translated into symbol-strewn, often Boschian dreamscapes.
Their stylistic sources included social and magic realism, Surrealism, the
Victorian fairy painters and the Hudson River School, as well as commercial
art and Works Progress Administration murals. In "Wizard" (1994), a
white-coated scientist slinks guiltily from a vast landfill piled with
pills and gold coins and inhabited by white rats and AIDS patients.
"Yosemite," with a frame festooned with pine cones, shows the national park
being destroyed by an enthusiastic public while alarmed giant redwoods look
on and dollar signs and peace symbols coalesce in the smoke above the
campfires. A frequent motif was an elegant spiraling strand of DNA, as in
"Beacon" (2001), which shows the artist on a hospital bed adrift in the
ocean, looking toward a distant lighthouse emitting a white beam laced with
the DNA spiral.
Born in New York in 1953, Mr. Moore grew up on Long Island and in the
Adirondacks; a strong interest in nature made him, as he put it, "a kind of
activist naturalist." He graduated from Yale with honors and a degree in
art and psychology in 1975. He moved to New York, where he learned to paint
trompe l'oeil and faux-bois finishes while working at the Isabel O'Neil
School of the Painted Finish. He studied in Paris for two years and, upon
his return in 1979, began designing sets and costumes for the choreographer
Jim Self. Their collaboration lasted until the late 1980's and included
several dance film projects, one of which, "Beehive," won a Bessie in 1985.
Mr. Moore's first solo show was at the Clocktower in TriBeCa in 1983. He is
represented in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney
Museum of American Art, the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo and the
New York Public Library. He received the Academy Award in Art from the
American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1999. A monograph on his work will
be published by Twin Palms Press next month; a survey of his work will open
at the Orlando Museum of Art in June.
Mr. Moore is survived by his companion, Patrick Orton of New York; two
sisters, Rebecca, of Los Gatos, Calif., and Elizabeth, of Bay Shore, N.Y.;
two brothers, Arthur, of Pasadena, Calif., and Daniel Harris of San Jose,
Calif.; and his stepmother, Katherine Moore, of New York.
Mr. Moore saw both sides of most issues, knowing that the advances of
genetic engineering were keeping him alive yet deploring their effects on
agriculture and human health. Linking his interests in AIDS and the
environment, he once told an interviewer, "You cannot have healthy people
in an unhealthy environment, and you can't have a healthy environment where
unhealthy greedy, exploitive people predominate."
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