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Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

If you haven’t caught the stel­lar Ja­cob Lawrence exhibit at the Mem­phis Brooks Mu­seum of Art, which ends Sept. 6, there’s now more rea­son. Sim­ply drive across town af­ter tak­ing in the Brooks show and you can see Lawrence’s in­flu­ence on Mem­phian Carl E. Moore, whose ret­ro­spec­tive at The Car­i­tas Vil­lage bal­ances so­cial com­men­tary with a vis­ual power wor­thy of the pi­o­neer­ing Har­lem Re­nais­sance artist.

Ti­tled “The Gen­e­sis Project,” the se­lec­tion of 20 acrylic paint­ings re­peats some of a show he had last Novem­ber at L Ross Gallery where he is rep­re­sented. Yet the newer exhibit feels equally at home hang­ing, as it will through Sept. 30, in­side The Car­i­tas Vil­lage, a Bing­ham­ton area cof­fee shop/com­mu­nity and cul­tural cen­ter. Art is for every­one, the show seems to say, and Moore agrees.

“Un­less some­body is ask­ing you to show in the worst place in the world, show your art,” he says of his de­ci­sion to exhibit sa­lon-style at the non­profit venue, which ex­ists in part to of­fer a pos­i­tive al­ter­na­tive to street life for Bing­ham­ton youth.

Says Car­i­tas Vil­lage founder/di­rec­tor Onie Johns, “Part of my mis­sion is to in­fuse beauty into ug­li­ness, so (this exhibit) does that pretty well.”

Born in Can­ton, Miss., Moore, 43, has lived in Mem­phis since 1983 and is cur­rently se­nior graphic de­signer at WREG-TV Chan­nel 3. His re­sume in­cludes stud­ies at the Art In­sti­tute of Chicago and Mem­phis Col­lege of Art and il­lus­tra­tor with the Depart­ment of De­fense.

All of the above train­ing comes to­gether in his in­cred­i­bly as­sured paint­ings, which ra­di­ate color and com­po­si­tion in a way that achieves at once sim­plic­ity and depth. At their best, such as the twin pan­els “Birth of Man” and “Birth of Woman,” Moore’s work comes across as iconic as any­thing by Keith Har­ing (some­one whose train­ing also bridged com­mer­cial and fine art).

Other paint­ings res­onate less with sym­bol­ism than with pointed com­men­tary as in “Sodom & Go­mor­rah,” wherein Lot’s wife looks back on a city about to be de­stroyed by an atomic bomb, and one called “Mary & Joseph Ro­driguez,” which re­casts the Bib­li­cal birth nar­ra­tive as a mod­ern fa­ble of bor­der-cross­ing im­mi­grants whose un­cer­tain fate is ren­dered through the jux­ta­po­si­tion of Mary’s ex­tended belly, limned in life-af­firm­ing green, and the omi­nous grey sil­hou­ette of a generic road­side mo­tel (read, inn).

“I was a re­al­ist at one point, but af­ter you do that for a while, you go, ‘Why doesn’t the per­son just take a pic­ture?’” says Moore, who cites par­tic­u­lar in­spi­ra­tion in Michelan­gelo and the idea that ev­ery­thing should flow from an abil­ity to draw. “So I wanted some­thing where I could make some­what po­lit­i­cal, some­what so­cial state­ments. ... My mantra is to say more with less.”

By fo­cus­ing on the skele­tal struc­tures of line, form, and color, Moore has found such a voice, one which re­veals, judg­ing from his cur­rent exhibit, a Mem­phis mas­ter in the mak­ing.

Carl E. Moore’s “The Gen­e­sis Project” ra­di­ates color and com­po­si­tion in a way that achieves at once sim­plic­ity and depth. The Mem­phis artist’s work will be on dis­play at The Car­i­tas Vil­lage in Bing­ham­ton through Sept. 30.

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