san francisco art magazine

Oh Bringer Of Things!

Chad Moore

Little Tree Gallery
San Francisco, California

September 6th - October 5th, 2008

Reviewed by Dale Tegman
Chad Moore - Mythical Thing Bringer (detail)

"Mythical Thing Bringer" (detail), mixed media, dimensions variable, 2008

      According to Chad Moore, "Oh Bringer Of Things" began as a meditation on colonialism and its impact on the collective psyche of Papua New Guinea. Moore relates that some locals believe Western countries have stolen their nonspecific, valuable "stuff." Papuans who hold this perspective engage it with acts of sympathetic magic. Some hoard plastic items. Others build airstrips to seduce Western cargo planes from the sky.

      The three large canvases in the gallery, "Earthquake Weather", "Altocumulus Castellanus", and "Imaginary Meteorology #2", all function as real estate, landing strips if you will, or the sculptural "stuff" intruding upon the gallery. The paintings demonstrate an easygoing stipple.
Chad Moore - Altocumulus Castellanus

"Altocumulus Castellanus", oil on canvas, 70" x 48", 2008
© Chad Moore

Circuitous forms recall textures in the work of Micro Artists Marco Maggi and Daniel Zeller. Moore's habit of laying down a lighter color under a darker color gives a "what's-going-on-down-there" plume effect as though one were soaring over the clouds of a chemical fire. "Imaginary Meteorology #2" raises the stakes by presenting more discernible contrasts with an animal feel. Blue, green, and orange flare in spots like a false-color, leopard inspired fabric print.

      Moore's installation at Little Tree Gallery speaks to this relationship between the mythological and the factual. His array of accessible artifacts permits viewers, regardless of their belief, an outsider, Gulliver-in-Lilliput perspective. Further, Moore's action to force this equality asks questions of the relationship between the creator of materials and the artist. Is an object's allegiance to its manufacturer ever fully relieved by the artist who melts, reassembles, or manipulates that object? Can materials ever be recontextualized? Finally, the Papuans' emotional calling to cargo planes and "stuff" asks: Do objects have sentience? If so, what is our responsibility to them?

      "Mythical Thing Bringer" approaches these uneasy landscapes through the gallery's bay window. A 70's era plastic toy spaceship, Moore amply accessorizes the "Mythical Thing Bringer" with plastic eggs, chicken wire, cocktail sabers, Christmas balls, and colored polyurethane food wrap. Visible in the cargo hold are food miniatures, slices of polycarbonate pie and pizza, emblematic of a Western diet. The eggs and Christmas balls indicate Christian giving occasions, while the wire, sabers, and wrap suggest the preservation of food, in particular meat, in various stages of production and consumption.

      Smaller canvases around the gallery echo this understanding in more (or less) sanguine ways. In "Animal Sacrifice Attempt #1" and "Animal Sacrifice Attempt #4" a barnyard play set cow and a safari play set hippo meet similar fates. Each is immolated onto the canvas which is then painted unpleasant shades of red and brown.

Chad Moore - The Undertaker

"The Undertaker", 2008, mixed media

      Moore's lines present a kind of absorption or processing as though the canvases were themselves quicksand or the interior of a meat grinder. The most dramatic of these assemblages is "The Undertaker". A red-headed cowboy figure wearing black dynamically reaches out from the canvas with both hands. The right hand dissolves into a mass of melted plastic drizzled into colorful string. The right hand is muscular with bulbous foam core, protruding cocktail sabers, and a semi-articulate toy claw. The figure and the claw cannot be played with. The cocktail sabers will not hold garnishes or food. The exposed foam core will not insulate. They appear tawdry and junk-like. These objects lose their appearance of value when withdrawn from their initial purpose.

      Viewers are often prepared to reconsider objects with an accepted purpose as art when they are recontextualized. Such is the case with Duchamp's urinal. The viewer will even accept collections of found objects as artful, as with the altars of Betye Saar. Moore guides us to consider the object when it has been remanufactured, recycled, and manipulated in a desultory way. Our tendency to revere the intention for which an object was created limits our ability to reconsider it.

-- Dale Tegman

Dale Tegman is an online journalist living in San Francisco. Follow his popular blog at:

Images appear courtesy of Chad Moore and Little Tree Gallery.
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