THE ART OF SAYING MORE WITH LESS
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.