February 6, 2002
Current Issue: January 31, 2002

 

 

Love, Peace & Work by Carrie Moyer
Both compelling and distancing, Carrie Moyer's work may be best experienced by
'the children of the '60s
By R.J. Grubb

Like most artists Carrie Moyer lives
many lives. As co-founder of Dyke
Action Machine-the agitprop,
wheatpasting duo that whitewashes
New York City with large-scale
posters that insert lesbian images
into mainstream ads-she's also a
respected abstractionist painter and
choice graphic designer.

To keep the integrity of each life,
New York-based Moyer deliberately
maintains a safe distance between
her painter-self and the professional
graphic designer who pays the bills.

Yet with "The Bard Paintings,"
Moyer's first solo exhibition in
Boston which runs until February 9 at
The Gallery at Green Street, Jamaica
Plain, she signals an aesthetic shift
and focus.

That is, apart from composing
horizontal landscapes, for the first
time she blends her understanding
of acrylics and iconography to create
a work of multi-layered
arrangements that evokes the fabric
of life that flourished in the sixties.

Thematically, "The Bard Paintings"-Moyer completed the compositions while working
towards a master's at Bard College last year-act as a self-examining ode of the
"make love not war" generation. As a child of hippies, Moyer spent her adolescence
nomadically moving from one commune to the next. As a result, she found herself
constantly exposed to ideas of idealism, utopianism, and liberation.

To highlight these themes in her present work, Moyer creates solid images and
recognizable icons of flowers, the yin-yang symbol, and rows of polka dots from the
Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" album, among others. These icons are complemented
by images of assorted idealists like SCUM-founder Valerie Solanis, Karl Marx,
Buckminster Fuller, and Angela Davis who inhabited and had an impact upon the
peace and love generation. The result is an exciting synthesis of images and
meaning.

For instance in "Everything for Everybody," Moyer paints a gray, ghastly image of
architect Fuller against a pure color landscape. In the background, stark ruins of a
building exist and appear as if they will flutter and fall to a slight breeze. But as a
utopian structure, it somehow stands like an idyllic idea that never loses its
permanence despite its fundamental impossibility. Perhaps like the sixties
themselves, which never succeeded in their idealism, but nonetheless endure as a
reminder of cultural change and possibilities.

Many meanings

But like the rest of Moyer's large-scale paintings at Green Street, this represents
only one possible meaning hidden in the layers of random imagery and art history
that slowly reveal themselves from each linen canvas. For within the flat space of
high-chroma paint are rich layers of deep space that pull your eye closer, then thrust
it away as in a bout of hallucinatory vividness. (Interesting, Moyer recently began
using the graphics software Photoshop to test how various layers will work before
committing them to canvas.) The effect is best viewed when one steps away from
the paintings, allowing the eyes to shuffle and rearrange what is being seen.

Enhancing this effect is the works' unifier or "blob" that's found in every painting. In
essence, it is a controlled pour that, during her artist's talk this month, Moyer
described as her "present" to the viewer. Here, she said, "I'm not telling you, I'm
doing something for you."

This "doing" creates a fascinating visceral experiment in opposites. For at once, the
blobs present tactile masses of red acrylic paint mixed with glitter that attract a
viewer, then upon closer examination revolt one's senses as they conjure up images
of bile, vomit, and blood. While the idea of a controlled pour seems unlikely, the
recognition that each blob is distinctly different and well executed in each painting
suggests a definite level of command by the artist.

Perhaps the only drawback of the work is that for viewers not from the sixties, it may
be difficult to recognize the faces or the icons. Still Moyer's rich landscapes and deft
strokes make an eye fall, stagger, flip and soar so that every viewer leaves the
gallery with a gift.

The Gallery at (141) Green Street exhibits 'The Bard Paintings' until February 9 on Friday
and Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. Access is inside the Green Street MBTA Station,
Jamaica Plain. Info: 617-522-0000.