Toxic Beauty: The Art of Frank Moore
In highly detailed figurative paintings, Frank Moore (1953–2002) created compelling vistas of alternate universes replete with fantastic imagery. Often autobiographical, many of his works reference his HIV-positive status and the state of the health care industry. Others address ecological concerns and the dangers of genetically modified foods. Meticulously researching each of his themes, Moore devised an arsenal of symbols to depict them. Toxic Beauty spans Moore’s entire career—cut short too early by his death from AIDS—and continues across Washington Square Park at NYU’s Fales Library.
Born in New York City, Moore was raised on Long Island and spent his childhood summers in the Adirondacks, sparking a lifelong interest in the natural environment. After studying art and psychology at Yale University, he spent a year (1977–78) in Paris. Moore returned to Manhattan in 1979, where he actively participated in the burgeoning Downtown art scene. In 1985 he purchased a country home in Deposit, New York, where he began growing vegetables. Gardening drew his attention to America’s vast industrial farms and ill-used national parks—in his words, nature’s “sites of great, but toxic, beauty.” Many of his paintings reflect his admiration for Hudson River School landscape artists. But rather than marveling at nature’s sublime power, Moore focused on the looming threat of environmental pollution.
Moore often encased his two-dimensional paintings in intricate three-dimensional frames composed of diverse materials, creating dynamic and, at times, unsettling associations. In addition to painting and drawing, he also collaborated on performances, dance productions, and films. During the 1980s, he worked with choreographer Jim Self on the experimental film Beehive, a balletic narrative that is screened at Fales alongside his sketches for costume and set designs, storyboards, and production notes. Moore was also a deeply committed activist. An integral member of the group Visual AIDS, he played a crucial role in creating the AIDS red ribbon and helped develop the Archive Project. At once seductive and mysterious, the art of Frank Moore provides entrée into captivating visions by this talented painter and consummate storyteller.
FILM 1: Created by Frank Moore’s sister Rebecca Moore and Denise Zmekhol, this short film offers an intimate view of the artist’s life and work, including interviews with him, images of his works, and views of his house and grounds in Deposit, New York. 12:07 minutes.
FILM 2: Based on an audio recording of a talk by Frank Moore at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1998, this film presents Moore’s in-depth commentary on many of his paintings, accompanied by full-color illustrations. The film also includes photographs of Moore at work on his paintings and frames, details his involvement as an AIDS activist, and reproduces selected news coverage of his work. 44:17 minutes.